Minding The Generation Gap In The Anglican Blogosphere

Sometimes, I just get hit with moments of clarity. I was writing an email to a person in the Diocese and a reader of this blog about the reconciliation process in the Diocese and my presentation, what that person thought of it, and so on. In any event, in trying to encapsulate into words that the current controversies in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion had very little to do with sexuality despite the fact that most folks think this is the case, I decided that the controversy really has to do with who Jesus is, the authority of scripture, and the Global South and Generation-X giving the liberal baby boomer mostly lilly white elitist Episcopal Church a good dose of “what for”.

Generation-X is a pretty fluid term. In the broadest definition, Generation-X encompasses folks born from 1960 to 1979.

Take a look at the Anglican blogosphere. Kendall Harmon, for example, was born in 1960. I was born in 1971. I don’t know when, exactly, Sarah Hey, Matt Kennedy, the Ould brothers, Binky, Mike the CaNNet ninja, the Confessing Reader, Baby Blue, and Greg Griffith were born, but I have hung out with them a good bit and we are all in the same generation, that being Generation-X.

On the “other” side of the Anglican blogosphere are hard core baby boomers like Mark Harris, Elizabeth Kaeton, Jan Nunley, and Jim Naughton.

Coincidence?

Well, there is Sarah Dylan Breuer. Definitely a Gen-Xer. The conservative Anglican blogosphere’s favorite liberal, with whom many fruitful discussions are had on StandFirm and her blog by conservatives. The liberal lady who promotes biblical literacy and thinks pew bibles are a good idea in your average Episcopal Church. Why does Dylan even visit places like my blog and StandFirm to dialogue and why is she so well liked, respected, and understood? Well, she is chatting with her fellow Gen-Xers.

Coincidence?

I say all this to say things I’ve said before. Generation-X really isn’t all that interested in re-inventing the Episcopal Church from a faith or liturgy perspective. Frankly, considering the wing-nutty times we grew up in along with some of the wing-nutty baby boomers with whom we’ve had to contend as parents, teachers, preachers and leaders (depending on who you are and where you have been), we’d like a little bit of stability, please, and we are really interested in walking in a more traditional way. Further, we really believe this stuff about Jesus being the way, the truth, the life, that He died for our sins, and so on. Otherwise, we’d not be in church, at all. We aren’t real impressed with the Spongian-Borgian church, can’t really tell the difference between that and the ever so popular Swedenborgian church, and aren’t really impressed with the desire to have a church that baby-boomer liberals can belong to while denying everything that their parents believed and put stock in. The church is way bigger than that.

Oh, and as I’ve mentioned before, Nashotah House has the youngest student body of any seminary in the Episcopal Church, which before had been viewed by the Episcopal Church as that strange little small high church seminary, as that body is made up of a bunch of Generation-Xers with small children and so they have this great children’s choir now, family student housing, and so on.

Coincidence?

But, there is one new point to make.

While the real battle in Anglicanism in the USA is probably among various members of the silent generation and the boomers, as they are of the age to be power-brokers in this struggle, if you look at who is really trying to speak out and make a difference in this “new” media called the internet, it ain’t them, and the voice is conservative and orthodox, even on the liberal end, compared to where things are now.

Coincidence?

I think not.

But, I could be wrong. Tell me what you think…

38 Responses to “Minding The Generation Gap In The Anglican Blogosphere”


  1. 1 BabyBlue August 23, 2007 at 1:50 am

    Bingo!

    BabyBlue was born in 1961. GenX all the way.

    bb

  2. 2 jean August 23, 2007 at 1:58 am

    FWIW, Mark Harris, being 66 years old, isn’t a boomer, he’s at the tail end of the silent generation. I don’t know about the others. Some of the other major characters in the current drama, such as Marcus Borg himself, or the Bishop of Connecticut Andrew Smith (like Mark Harris, also a graduate Episcopal Theological School in the late 60s) also predate the boomers slightly. To attend the seminaries in the 60s, chances are you were born during WWII, not after.

  3. 3 Greg Griffith August 23, 2007 at 2:02 am

    1966. Peace, love, and detached bemusement, baby…

  4. 5 Tom Sramek, Jr. August 23, 2007 at 2:46 am

    You’re probably on to something here. Born in 1968, so solidly GenX. I have this recurring thought that GenXers are witnessing an ecclesiastical version of what the great majority of us witnessed in our families — a messy divorce with issues with which we can only partially identify and which don’t seem important enough to cause the divorce in the first place. As the President of Gathering the NeXt Generation (GTNG), I know that quite a number of folks are feeling caught between two huge generations: the Boomers who are aging and squabbling and the Millennials who are growing up in an increasingly secular environment without any sort of experience of church or God at all. GenXers seem destined to be a bridge generation, and bridges often get walked on.

  5. 6 Kevin August 23, 2007 at 3:16 am

    Didn’t I comment on this very thing on BB about those who desire to hold onto our ‘story’ and the boomers who think they can rewrite it as they please?

    [My Point] Go Brad, Go!!!

  6. 7 Irenaeus August 23, 2007 at 3:49 am

    The Baby Boom extended to 1964. Kendall Harmon is a Baby Boomer. So is anyone born in 1962 (Baby Blue?). So are most of the Connecticut Six. So are several prominent orthodox Anglican bloggers whose names I won’t mention because I’m about to ask them for favors.

    Mark Harris belongs to the Silent Generation (as do nonblogging revisionists like Griswold, Spong, and Browning, whom Gen X/Y fancy deems Baby Boomers).

    Generation X may well have the honor of encompassing not only Salty Vicar but Fr. Jake.

    Sort of screws the pattern, doesn’t it?

    Perhaps the deeper pattern is ill-informed stereotyping of 30% of the population: Baby Boomers are bad; We are good. Hence good people born in 1960 or 1962 must be Gen X even if that confounds common understanding of the term. “O God, we thank you that we are not as those Baby Boomers.”

    You’d never think, by the way, that the Jesus Movement of the 1970s was a Baby Boomer phenomenon—which died when Gen X came of age. No more of those jam-packed InterVarsity and Campus Crusade meetings, which were not seen again until relatively recently.

  7. 8 Mark Harris August 23, 2007 at 4:21 am

    Actually I am older than the horse you rode in on. 67. But that’s ok…I think the generation scheme is bunk. But you are right that much of the power broker stuff is played out by ol farts. On the other hand there are some of us also on the internet doing one thing or another, and at least some of us seem to find connections across the great divide and across the internet.

    Sarah DB is a good friend on this side and I keep hoping one day BB and I will have coffee somewhere on one side or the other, and I was delighted to drink your bourbon. I don’t know… maybe there is hope on the far side of the field.

    And yes, you are regrettably right… the younger crowd, even the “liberal” ones seem more conservative. But appearances may not tell all. After all, ol fart that I am I still follow Jesus as Lord and Savior, pray fervently and regularly, am convinced that the Scriptures contain all things necessary to salvation, hold to the sacraments, and am under authority. The appearance of being a late silent generation item does not tell all!

    Of the 67 years I’ve been around, I’ve been a priest 40 of those. I didn’t burn out and I didn’t give up and I still struggle each week I have to preach to preach the Gospel truth.

    Interesting post.

  8. 9 Robert Easter August 23, 2007 at 6:13 am

    OK, Brad, you got me curious- So how about some folks drop over at my blogsite and see where you place me in this demo; and I’ve been around since ’53.

    r.e.

  9. 10 Robert Easter August 23, 2007 at 6:13 am

    OK, Brad, you got me curious- So how about some folks drop over at my blogsite and see where you place me in this demo; and I’ve been around since ’53.

  10. 11 Karen B. August 23, 2007 at 9:53 am

    1963 for me.

    I left a comment on BabyBlue about how I think those of us born in 1960-1965 are just a bit in both worlds. Just old enough to remember some of the culture-shattering events of the 60s and early 70s (assasinations, Vietnam, Kent State, Watergate, Landing on the Moon, etc.) and yet young enough that we were observers, not participants.

    What was interesting was to go over to the Wiki article on GenX (AFTER I’d written my comment above) and find that indeed GenX originally focused on only the 1960-1965 cohort:

    The term, Generation X, was later popularized by Canadian novelist Douglas Coupland in Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (1991), which describes the angst of those born between roughly 1960 and 1965, who felt no connection to the cultural icons of the baby boom generation.

    Bingo. Though of course it’s been expanded to include folks born through 1976 or perhaps 1979 (“Baby busters”)

    Now I wonder how the FedCom / ComCon debate fits into this picture? (It probably doesn’t… I’m just being provocative!) LOL.

  11. 12 Karen B. August 23, 2007 at 10:20 am

    Irenaeus, just now saw your comment. 1963 is indeed defined as the end of the BabyBoom demographically. The problem is that culturally, none of us born in the early 60s were old enough to really participate in the defining events that shaped the BabyBoom generation as we traditionally know it. We were observers and misfits in our “demographic cohort.” That’s how the whole GenX idea was born.

  12. 13 Matthew August 23, 2007 at 10:26 am

    Bless you Karen B!

    I was feeling sad about being a Baby-Boomer and you dig up that info about what Gen-X is. That means Kendall Harmon ( who was born in 1960 and is old) and myself (who was born in 1960 and am young) are Gen-Xers!. That made my day.

  13. 14 descant August 23, 2007 at 11:20 am

    Well, Mark, I thought you were younger than that…grin.

  14. 15 Timothy Fountain August 23, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    I’m a boomer (1958). I say we replace the Church Pension Fund with a new system in which a shrinking pool of Gen-X clergy have to pay a good chunk of their compensation into a system that provides inadequate retirement, medical and disability benefits for the other boomers and me.

    Oh, wait…

  15. 16 Widening Gyre August 23, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    WG, 1967. Summer of Love, Baby! U2, Valley Girl, Radio on the “left of the dial,” Atari vs. Intellivision, Miami Vice (queue the drums), Cosby (v.1)…

  16. 17 Robin G. Jordan August 23, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    Hi Brad, interesting hypothesis. My blog is decidedly to the right of center upon many issues that affect the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. I am a Baby Boomer. May be you should be looking at other factors beside age echelon or generation. Why did some people fall under the influence of liberalism, modernism, and radicalism and others did not.

  17. 18 Kevin Babb August 23, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    Brad: You might take a look at this current issue of the Harvard Business Review, which has an article laying out the various characteristics of our Generation, as well as those currently represented in the living US population. (interestingly enough, as far as drawing lines goes, the author characterized Barack Obama (1961) as the first Gen-X presidential candidate.

    I think that Kevin+ Martin has done a lot of work on this issue from the ecclesiastical perspective.

    The author talks about the fact that those of us who were adolescents in the 70s and 80s had to deal with a chaotic adult world that saw us essentially as burdens, and that this has fostered in us a desire for stability and order.

    Kevin Babb (1962).

    PS. I don’t know what to do with the fact that Mark+ Harris and my Bishop, +Peter Beckwith are the same age, other than to understand that these classifications are generalizations, at best.

  18. 19 Todd Granger/Confessing Reader August 23, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    Karen,

    The original Wikipedia article on Generation X certainly fits with my experience – supposedly born at the end of the Baby Boom (1963) but having no memorable connection to the iconic social events that define (to a greater or lesser extent) Boomers as a group.

    Interesting that this earlier definition seems to fit the “Generation Jones” profile as well.

    I also know that I don’t feel a great connection with the Generation X experience in the way defined in popular media.

    Ah well – the problem of defining people by groups, I suppose.

  19. 20 Fr. Tony Clavier August 23, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    Probably on track says this 67 year old!

  20. 21 Thomas B. Woodward August 23, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    Brad, et. al., I will be 70 this December and I do have a different perspective, I’m sure, than the generations which follow. I have watched (and participated in) many occasions when the Episcopal Church has broadened its perspective and become more inclusive. Having been present and involved as our churches became racially integrated, as women were allowed to sit on Vestries (St. Paul would have been appalled), as deacons became a real presence in the church, as the church embraced radically different viewpoints on abortion, capital punishment, the participation in the Viet Nam war, I tend to see our current struggles as a part of our history, not separate from it.

    In addition, as a straight male priest, I have been involved for forty years in attempting to build bridges between the church and gay/lesbian communities — in that time I have heard so many stories, shared so much pain, and seen so much of the presence of the Crucified One and of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those we thought we had excluded for good that I have little sympathy for those who hang onto ancient codes devised by people who, in these matters, were ignorant and wrong.

    On another level, I believe we cross generational lines and categories as we make ourselves vulnerable to new truths and as we let go of our felt need for security in all matters. Reading blogs with no other knowledge of the authors, I would put Mark Harris and Fr. Jake among the young and you, Brad, Kendall and the people at Stand Firm among the “older generation.” Odd, how us older folks are more optimistic about the future, not only of the church but of life, itself.
    Tom Woodward

  21. 22 Timothy Fountain August 23, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    There was that darkly humorous backstory, in “Unforgiven”, about a guy called “Two Guns.”

    We now have Brad “Two Blogs” Drell… but I am enjoying both threads.

    Which one will Cantaur recognize?

  22. 23 Greg Jones August 23, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    1969. I agree with much of what you’ve said Brad, as always.

  23. 24 padraic August 23, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    A boomer(49 going on 50),veteran of the Jesus Movement,with a definite taste for Zeppelin
    to Eddie Vetter,Monty Python,Francis Schaeffer and Bonhoeffer to Raphael Mac Manus,Larry Norman and Love Song to Vineyard Music.

  24. 25 Charming Billy August 23, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    Fr. Woodward,

    I don’t think it’s accurate to characterize the views of younger “conservatives” like Brad and Fr. Harmon as mere simulacra of the consensus of the church at the time you were ordained and we were born. As Brad pointed out, the social and cultural forces unleashed after the PECUSA and our nation “broadened its perspective” in the 60s often resulted in those of us born after 1960 becoming “vulnerable to new truths” or being forced to “let go of our felt need for security” at an age when we were deeply and sometimes fatally “vulnerable to new truths” and insecurity . Our views, just as much as yours, have been shaped after having been involved in the events you discuss. The great difference is that while you were involved as a willing and reflective adult participant, we were often involved as unwilling participants who lacked the capacity to reflect on or control what was happening to us and our world.

    You’re the same age as my parents. Try to think of the 60s the way you experienced WWII. That is, a monumental epoch that colored and changed the world you grew up in for both good and ill, but over which you had no personal control. Naturally your experience of WWII was quite different than your parents, but just as important and formative. We view the 60s in the same way. It shaped us and our world in a ways that your generation couldn’t and didn’t experience. Before categorizing as “older generation” those younger people who are critical of those aspects of the 60s which you find positive, please consider the difference in perspective between those who experienced the 60s and 70s as adults and those who experienced it as children.

  25. 26 Jan August 23, 2007 at 11:40 pm

    Warning, this is a repeat post from stand Firm.

    As a very early boomer I would like to counter a misconception about that generation. Boomers were not leaders, they were followers. The political, social, sexual, marital, feminist revolutions of the sixties and early seventies were led by the boomer’s older siblings–the pre-boomer generation born between 1930 and 1947. In any sphere the iconic names of the sixties were from that generation.

    To name just a few: Abbie Hoffman, Huey Newton, Eldrige Cleaver, Jarry Brown, Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden, Ralph Nader, Angela Davis, Jesse Jackson, John Updike, Hunter Thompson, Thomas Pynchon, Derrida, Harold Pinter, Ken Kesey, Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem, Kate Millet, Susan Sontag, Hendrix, Jagger, Lennon, Dylan, Baez, Woody Allen, and in the Episcopal Church the women irregularly ordained in the sevneties, Righter, Spong, Harris, Crew, Griswold and others that we know from the Left blogs.

    What do we know about the lives of these mostly white, mostly middle class, mostly Americans? If they were alive, they were still pre-Kintergarden during the depression; they were in grammar or middle school during WW2; then young adults during the economic boom years of the fifties and early sixties; the the civil rights movement in the sixties and the early build up to Viet Nam. Those who didn’t get student deferments from the draft did their military time in post-war Germany. In short, they were kids during WW2, could avoid Korea, and were too old to be drafted for Viet Nam.

    Theirs was a small generation so they coasted through college without loans, entered a booming workforce with little competition. They were the last to go to CCNY or Berkeley for free and they are now the last to have retired with full pensions and health benefits, instead of degraded 401Ks. And they may be the last generation to get full Social Security and Medicare

    It is arguably the most pampered, secure, carefree generation that ever existed. So why were they so rebellious and why are they still such whiners? And arrogant and condescending?

    I think it’s because they were young adults when the post-war influence began to be felt. They saw themselves as uniquely unsullied by WW2 and wiser than their parents who’d made so many mistakes. They have carried this adolescent hubris with them through the decades. Their arrogance and condescension toward their unsophisticated, insular, racist parents and the next generation of much younger siblings (if they have any) still informs their world view today. They organized the anti-war movement, though they had no fear of being drafted; as graduate students they forced the universities to change curricula and standards to please themselves, and in the church, they fooled around with the prayer book, ordination, the sacraments and everything else they could get hold of.

    Are we better off for their leadership? In some ways yes. In the balance, I’m not so sure.
    There is an assumption that family life in the fifties was drear, stultified, oppressive. But it wasn’t. My childhood was a lot more carefree, open, without boundaries than most kids know today. I roamed far and wide on my bicycle without restriction except to be home at five to help set the table for dinner. I had chores and homework and had to do them. No big deal. And I am pretty sure that my mother’s life was better than her mother’s and better than anything I have known.

    Are women better off in the aftermath of contraception, abortion, divorce and kids without fathers? Some, but for some communities it has been a disaster. I will end this by going back to my first observation. Boomers were followers not leaders. It was the so-called Silent Generation that spearheaded the revolutions of the sixties and seventies. They had the security of the post-war, pre-Viet Nam 50’s and 60’s to play in. Sometimes I’m inclined to call them The Most Spoiled Generation. And I wish they would stop being such spoiled brats. And so supercilious and judgemental.

  26. 27 Irenaeus August 24, 2007 at 2:32 am

    “The problem is that culturally, none of us born in the early 60s were old enough to really participate in the defining events that shaped the BabyBoom generation as we traditionally know it” —Karen B.

    Fair enough, but that’s also true of many, perhaps most, Baby Boomers born in the 1950s. If you were born in 1955, you were 12 at the time of Haight-Ashbury, 13 at the time of the first Earth Day, 14 at the time of Woodstock, and 13-15 at the time of the major antiwar protests. By the time you started college, in 1973, campus activism had largely given way to grim pre-professionalism.

  27. 28 jon August 24, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    Good grief!
    Didn’t anyone actually READ “Generations,” the book from which the theories came?
    The younger boomers are called “Tier II,” and we were the supporters of Ronald Reagan, having seen the excesses of the sixties and early seventies among our older siblings (and amongst my friend’s parents). Most Tier II are pro-life, pro-family, and conservative in our religious beliefs.
    I was lucky. My parents were the “great generation,” and were very traditional (both being born around 1917). Most of my friends’ parents were the “Silent Generation” that went to college in the early 1960’s or went to the Korean conflict. Having dealt with the “silent generation” during my years as a pastor (1988 to 2002)from a senior pastor to denominational and regional officials, this generation (at least in its liberal set) were obstructionistic, enamored with the latest theories (“have you read this book?!”), and absolutely determined to keep the younger conservatives away from the levers of power, both locally and denominationally. The only ones in my age range or younger were the “neutered” pets. So glad to be out of it!

  28. 29 Stuart August 24, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    The group you left out of your analysis are the, I believe, Gen-X bloggers who support the Episcopal Church and same-sex unions from a traditionalist perspective. These people confound the simple division of the Church into the “neo-puritan conservatives” and the “syncretist liberals.” Examples of these bloggers would be:

    The Anglican Scotist
    Derek at Haligweorc
    Christopher at Bending the Rule

    These men (rightly, in my opinion) see themselves and their positions arising from their zeal for the catholic faith and their study of the Church Fathers. They certainly can’t be defined as broad church centrists, they care too much for purity of doctrine and the importance of received tradtion for that.

  29. 30 Alice C. Linsley January 6, 2008 at 1:46 am

    I was born in 1949. That makes me the old lady. I’m sure that the generational differences matter, but I teach college students almost every day and there are some who get it and some who don’t. I think this is true of every generation.

    The litmus test for me is whether God, the Incarnate Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are an idea or a personality. Timothy Fountain+ wrote in a comment at my blog: “Jacob Neusner, a secular Jew and Ivy League Professor, had the honesty to say something like, ‘For my ancestors, God was a personality, not an idea.’ We too often try to tame and control God by turning the lively personality in the Bible into an “idea” of our own.

    And each generation does this, creating an idea of God that it finds most comfortable and least demanding.

  30. 31 Tom June 23, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Strictly speaking, Gen-X’ers birthdates didn’t start until 1979. Previous to that were Baby-Busters and there is a significant difference between the two. Baby-Boomers from 1948 – 1964, Busters 1965 – 1979, Gen-X’ers 1979 – 1990, Bridgers 1990 – Present.

  31. 32 Michael August 4, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    The internet has finally showed what organized religion is all about — making money and keeping a lot of unemployable people afloat as clergy. As for young people…they are not interested in spending Sunday singing hymns, watching repetitive rituals and believing in some guy name Jesus is the son of God. I was raised an Episcopalian, boarding schools etc., and NOT ONE OF MY RELATIVES go including me. Everyone I know that are cradle Episcopalians are atheists or agnostics. They might get buried or married in the church but its a more social thing than anything to do with some God reinterpreted by the British to keep the aristocracy going. The Episcopal Church has become sort of a joke and refuge for women who want a second career and a lot of power. Aesthetically it is from hunger.

  32. 33 Derek September 2, 2008 at 11:19 am

    I disagree
    Can you give more info?


  1. 1 Drell’s Descants » Minding The Generation Gap In The Anglican Blogosphere Trackback on August 23, 2007 at 1:57 am
  2. 2 Positive Infinity » To Mind a Generation Gap You Have to Find It Trackback on August 23, 2007 at 12:07 pm
  3. 3 Top Posts « WordPress.com Trackback on August 24, 2007 at 5:36 am
  4. 4 A Reminder of The Generation Gap In The Episcopal Church « Drell’s Descants Trackback on August 3, 2008 at 11:41 pm
  5. 5 A Stunning Comment On An Old Thread I Linked Yesterday « Drell’s Descants Trackback on August 4, 2008 at 9:08 pm

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