Archive for July 20th, 2008

Surprised by Grace: One Mainline Pastor’s Story

Read it all. I can say the story is pretty close to my own, growing up Episcopalian and being where I am now theologically speaking. Here is just a snippit:

I had jumped the shark, so to speak. As a mainline, PC(USA) pastor I had found myself the guy that I used to laugh about. That mocking derision to the simple-minded folk who actually claimed what I now claimed about the Bible was directed at me. You see, in the mainline church culture, it only works one way: conservatives and evangelicals can turn liberal. But never, never the reverse! A liberal turning fundamentalist is a violation of the contract. Oh well…

While I was personally never a wide eyed crazy liberal, I sure didn’t worry about things like homosexuality and the church and was always glad I was better than the fundamentalists (remember the top ten reasons to be Episcopalian t-shirts floating about? I still have one…)

Now, I are one. With a nagging feeling of embarrassment about the hubris I had toward my fellow Christians.

And now, the Lambeth Conference Begins In Earnest…Recognizing Disagreement…What’s Coming

Now the retreat will soon be over and the Lambeth Conference will begin more in earnest, with dialogue among the bishops wherein I’m sure they will discuss some sort of solution to the Communion’s problems. Rumor has it that the Archbishop of Canterbury has a plan for some sort of canon law up his sleeve. While there are numerous potential problems with this and just about everything that has come out of the Instruments of Unity during the last five years, I guess the thing that really stands out to me is that +Rowan apparently had a plan for General Synod and that just didn’t work out. Ruth Gledhill reported somewhere that +Rowan voted for measures to protect traditionalists, abstained from the final vote on Women bishops, and spent a good deal of his time at Synod with his head in his hands. His suffragan that runs the Diocese of Canterbury, the Bishop of Dover, ended up crying and stating he was ashamed of his church.

When in a majority in the Anglican Church, liberals simply will not compromise. Why? Because women, gays, lesbians, and just plain old liberals are looking for the church’s blessing on who they are, their kinds of “ministries”, and what they believe. They aren’t looking for space in the church for themselves or even a place at the table, but for the church, including conservatives, to say their positions and beliefs are legitimately Christian. Of course, this is the one thing conservatives cannot give in principle. Moreover, they simply cannot be under the authority of someone who holds these kinds of positions and maintain their conscience. It is this Bible-thingy. It says you aren’t supposed to.

The United Methodist Church was confronted with similar stuff at their most recent annual conference, where the liberals, not being able to win a majority, got in a huff when a resolution was rejected that recognized “disagreement”. Recognizing “disagreement” is the legitimacy that it on the agenda, and the first step to achieving the goal. Thankfully, the Methodists rebuffed this, probably because they saw how “recognizing disagreement” ultimately undid the Episcopal Church.

The Church of England General Synod effectively refused to recognize disagreement with traditionalists in the CofE. The liberals clearly understand why they shouldn’t do this. However, over the years, conservative Anglicans have been, well, way too nice on this front and now we are paying the price.

So, I hope my blog readers out there, including not more than a few bishops at Lambeth, will not vote for anything that recognizes “disagreement”, unless it is a courtesy resolution recognizing someone from another church visiting the deliberative body of which you are a part. Firstly, why state the obvious? Secondly, it effectively undoes whatever else the resolution states. Thirdly, the slippery slope has ceased being a logical fallacy in the Anglican Church, but an observable reality.

Do realize that based on information I have from a source close to +Rowan is that +Rowan would like a workable solution to all this, and he is desperate for it. However, I don’t think he is going to get it. It will get mired down procedurally, and the folks will simply vote no.

On a personal note, it dawned on me that Provincial Synod is coming up for Province VII, and then General Convention 2009 in a year, which as I get older seems like less and less time. Lately, I’ve been feeling like, well, not going. Getting a note from my doctor or my wife saying I’m too well to attend these meetings. Of course I am going to go and do my duty. Mostly to vote no at GC2009. No to whatever comes up. That was Bishop Robinson’s strategy to kill my prison ministry resolution in the structure committee, despite the sheer number of sponsors I had on the other side of the sexuality issues signed up on the measure. It came from me, so it had to die, despite the fact that this same resolution was passed at GC2003, with only a few changes made to update it for GC2006.

At one time, I had some hope for reconciliation, after participating in the exercises here in Western Louisiana. I simply don’t think it is possible anymore. I don’t think anyone else really thinks it is possible anymore. If some sort of structural relief were to come in which I, as a conservative, Bible-believing Christian who is about equally evangelical and Anglo-Catholic, could remain in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion with integrity, I would take it. So would a lot of other people, including quite a few solid Episcopal bishops. Frankly, folks, it just isn’t going to happen. I’ll be cheering the loudest if it does. But, it is something the liberals just can’t give.

The only thing Canterbury could do to help this situation is to recognize those who have left TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada as Anglicans as well, and then see which part of the Anglican Communion prospers under the Gamaliel principle. He wouldn’t need anyone else’s approval to do that symbolically. Short of that, I think the Anglican Communion is pretty much over, as is the Church of England.