Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Speaking the Truth

Episcopal Life Online today published an opinion piece, "Speaking the Truth – with Love," by the Reverend Ken Howard (rector of St. Nicholas Episcopal Church in Darnestown, Maryland). In it, he counters some of the media "spin" about the looming schism, and offers a pastoral antidote. Here are few snippets.

Reading yet another story about schism in Episcopal Church ("More U.S. Episcopalians Look Abroad Amid Rift – Overseas Prelates Lead 200 to 250 Congregations," June 17, 2007), I found myself growing a little bored with the topic. While we all know that divisions exist and that some congregations have seceded or are planning to, it gets tiresome after a while seeing the same tired old story repeated for the umpteenth time.

There seems to be a generally accepted storyline that runs something like this: Conservatives vs. Liberals. Traditionalists vs. Revisionists. Conservative congregations growing. Too-liberal Episcopal Church shrinking. Unfortunately, the storyline does not fairly portray the reality. Yet sheer repetition has given it an aura of "truthiness."

Take the title of the article for example. The term "rift," coupled with the estimate of 200-250 departing churches, makes it seem that a congregational exodus of seismic proportions is underway. Yet compared with the more than 7,500 congregations that make up the Episcopal Church nationwide, even that number barely registers as a tremor. But the article's estimate is much too high. To date, only a majority of members of 45 Episcopal congregations (less than 1%) have voted to leave the denomination (the higher figure quoted by the article includes congregations who were never a part of the Episcopal Church.) [Emphasis added] . . .

The article also reported uncritically the "overseas prelates" (and their disaffected American congregations) self-portrayal as protectors of traditional Anglicanism against an aggressively anti-orthodox U.S. Episcopal Church. Unreported is their selectivity about which traditions they want to protect, rejecting traditions that do not suit them in favor of some very non-Anglican practices. The current rush of overseas prelates to outsource the Episcopal oversight of American congregations, for example, violates not only traditional Anglican practice, but ancient Christian practice as well. The reason most often given for violating this ancient tradition is to preserve orthodoxy. But this plethora of prelates raises the question of whose interpretation of orthodoxy will be enforced. Some of these foreign Anglican Churches, for example, accept the ordination of women as orthodox practice, while others do not. And the overarching enforcement body that some of them propose looks very much like a "magisterium" (i.e., top-down interpretation of Scripture by the hierarchy of the Church), a concept the Anglican Church has rejected since its inception.

A related and largely unreported phenomenon is the growing number of churches -- our own congregation being one of them – who reject the old conservative vs. liberal storyline. These congregations consider themselves neither liberal nor conservative (though their individual members represent a wide spectrum of theological views). Recognizing that human understanding of the mind of Christ is imperfect at best they choose to make the love of Christ – experienced in their common worship of the Living God – the basis of Christian community, rather than agreement on a broad spectrum of doctrinal principles (unity, rather than uniformity). . . . God is more than capable of sorting us out on these issues over the long haul. . . .
Click here to read the entire essay at Episcopal Life Online. It's a breath of fresh air.


Blogger Susan Russell said...

Bravo! Well done!

8/29/2007 11:47 AM  
Blogger Rick D said...

An excellent post, thank you. Is there no way within the Anglican Communion to censure the trespassing bishops? Is it acceptable to turn the tables and "rescue" oppressed Anglicans in Nigeria, Uganda, and elsewhere?

8/29/2007 12:39 PM  

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