Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Certain Madness

Editor's Note: Christopher Webber submitted this essay on Saturday, November 3, after the Diocese of Pittsburgh voted to disassociate from the Episcopal Church. Webber has written for The Episcopal Majority before. See The Conscience of a Conservative and 1984 in the Episcopal Church (which includes background information about the author).

by Christopher L. Webber

A certain madness seems at times to take hold of entire societies and turn them toward self-destruction. Such a passion seized the authorities in South Carolina in 1861 and led them to fire on Fort Sumter. Such an irrational mood took hold of Germany in 1932 and led them to follow blindly after Adolf Hitler. Such a delusion seems to have taken possession of a few dioceses and parishes of the Episcopal Church leading them to charge off into an unknown wilderness with only the negative purpose of not being part of a church in which homosexuals have equal rights.

Yet the divisions within this chaotic disarray are greater than those in the Episcopal Church itself. Do they agree on a Prayer Book, on the ordination of women, on the authority of bishops, on the nature of the Anglican Communion itself? In fact, they don’t. [See Note 1.] But never mind; they’ll figure out who they are later. It’s as if Ted Kennedy and Rush Limbaugh formed a political party dedicated to defeating Hillary Clinton. What would they do if they won? This is a recipe for disaster. [Editor's note: The Common Cause Partners have their website here.]

"Here I stand. I can do no other. I will neither compromise the Faith once delivered to the saints, nor will I abandon the sheep who elected me to protect them."
Thus spake Bishop Duncan after the Diocese of Pittsburgh voted almost 2-1 last week to cast itself adrift in uncharted waters. [See Note 2.] But where does he stand? Does he accept the faith once delivered to Archbishop Akinola of the Church in Nigeria where lay people have no voice in the selection of clergy leadership? Does he follow the Diocese of Sydney, Australia, in yearning for lay administration of the sacraments and a total disregard for diocesan boundaries? Does he see the ordination of women as an optional extra?

And in this new thing being created, will parishes and dioceses be permitted to come and go as various issues arise and become divisive? With new American bishops being created on impulse by bishops from various dioceses in Africa, Asia, and South America, each apparently eager to claim a share of the American pie, is there any possibility of diocesan lines or will we have a half dozen parishes in the same city with allegiance to half a dozen different foreign dioceses?

Who now will define “the faith once delivered to the saints?” Will homophobia be written into their creed, their articles of incorporation, their Prayer Book? Will tradition and reason – reason especially – be disavowed as sources of authority?

When you stand at the top of the ski run and realize that you don’t know how to ski, you can still turn back. But it takes a greater humility and sense of history than is currently at work for a leader to take his troops to the edge of the precipice and then suggest an alternative. Better to jump and die even if it turns out there’s no safety net down there than to be embarrassed in public.

Bishop Duncan may see himself as Martin Luther, but from this perspective he looks a lot more like one of those false messiahs of the past who led their sheep into the wilderness and ultimate disaster in pursuit of a mad vision of righteousness.

NOTES:

Note 1: In fact, the Diocese of Pittsburgh ordains women, but two other leading dissident dioceses (San Joaquin and Fort Worth) see that as apostasy. Likewise, some of the dissidents are content with the 1979 Book of Common Prayer while others see it as a work of the devil.

Note 2: The lay vote was 118-58, clergy voted 109-24 for changes to the Constitution of the Diocese (that would have to be voted again next year to take effect) that would essentially eliminate all references to the diocese's connection with the Episcopal Church and leave the Diocese free to pursue connection with some other Anglican entity.

9 Comments:

Blogger scott+ said...

Will homophobia be written into their creed, their articles of incorporation, their Prayer Book?

Since when is a phobia to uphold the teaching of the Holy Catholic Church? It would content that not ministering to those who are afflicted with proclivities to certain sins. It is not a ministry to call holy that which God has called sin.

With the House of Bishops not being able to lead the Episcopal Church in the United States, into a path which allow for communion with other Anglicans, it may be time for the split which Bishop Duncan would appear to be heading toward.

The liberal theology is well established in the Episcopal Church in the United States. But it is not accepted by most Christians. Women as priests or bishops is also something which most Christians do not accept. In short the Episcopal Church in the United States is out of the main stream, more importantly it is not in keeping with the teaching of the Holy Catholic Church.

Those who leave will be leaving for something bigger. Those who leave will be keeping the faith as upheld by Holy Catholic Church.

11/07/2007 4:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Scott, I fear you're prooftexting and then setting up a straw man. Read Webber's essay again. He asks about the schismatics: "Do they agree on a Prayer Book, on the ordination of women, on the authority of bishops, on the nature of the Anglican Communion itself?" No, they do not. Nor do they agree on such a fundamental matter as the Real Presence. In short, the only thing they all seem to hold in common is a denial that homosexual relationships may be as compatible with Scripture as heterosexual relationships are. That's why he made his flippant comment about writing homophobia into their creed; it seems to be about the only thing on which these diverse groups agree.

I know. You want to raise yet again your consistent hobbyhorse about "those who are afflicted with proclivities to certain sins" and "calling holy that which God has called sin." You ride that hobbyhorse here every time you get a chance. Your straw man is getting moldy, Scott.

Your comment – "With the House of Bishops not being able to lead the Episcopal Church in the United States, into a path which allow for communion with other Anglicans . . ." – made me chuckle. Clearly the Bishops are leading the Episcopal Church, though apparently not in a direction you like. But perhaps you just didn't mean to put a comma between those two clauses; maybe I'm misreading you. So I'll add further that we are – in fact – in full communion with most other churches of the Anglican Communion. Something like 6 of the 38 churches have declared themselves out of communion with TEC. That rift is grievous, but you can't responsibly say what you did here. We are in full communion with the vast majority of Anglican churches.

I also think it's pretty funny that you think Bishop Duncan is qualified to lead this new sect. I assume you are aware that he has ordained women to the priesthood and thus his practice and theology are (to quote your comment) "not in keeping with the teaching of the Holy Catholic Church."

Keep telling yourself they're "leaving for something bigger," Scott. We shall see.

11/07/2007 6:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely if there can be change in the Church's teaching regarding sexual ethics, there can be change in how the church structures itself. Your anger, and lack of an even hand here, shows itself time and again. Why grouse, why commit a sin by slandering Duncan (as you repeatedly do) and speaking ill of him?

11/07/2007 8:06 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

"Anonymous," how have I slandered Bishop Duncan? Are you charging me with that slander, or the TEM site? Please provide specifics.

Dear Anonymous, the church has changed her stance on ethics, and moral ethics, and even sexual ethics many times over these millenia. There is no such thing as "the faith once delivered to the saints." It is a lie. Plain and simple.

11/08/2007 11:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It appears to me that one side in this debate always has an answer, while the other always has a question. I am not sure what that indicates, or proves, or even suggests. I sometimes wish I could be so sure that I know I am right. Other times all I can do is wonder, ponder, and search for reason. Does that make me a simpleton for not knowing; or a doubter for constantly seeking more answers? God knows!
GOM

11/09/2007 3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lisa,
You confirm the point, I was making. There has been change as you admit! So why screech against Duncan and others who want to stay part of the Anglican Communion and must realign to do so? If you think about it, taking the case in Kansas City where Bshp Wolf let Christ Church in Overland buy their building, what's so bad about that? You disagree with Duncan. Why beat a dead horse.

I wonder what you would do if, say, the shoe were on the other foot? If you felt the leadership of ECUSA went too far and started something new that you thought was way beyond the pale--and you were backed by the rest of the communion and the Primates--would you call yourself 'schismatic' if you wanted to remain in the communion, but in a realigned way?

Of course, maybe there is no such thing as 'beyond the pale'?

11/10/2007 6:11 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Anonymous, surely you know you are incorrect when you say the dissidents like +Duncan and +Iker are "backed by the rest of the communion and the Primates." The "Global South" group is managing to get 8 to 9 primates to sign on to the anti-TEC statements. There are 38 provinces in the Anglican Communion. Thus, there are 5-10% of dissident dioceses in TEC and about a quarter of the primates support them. That's hardly overwhelming support; in fact, were I among the dissidents, I would be sorely dismayed by the lack of support from the wider Communion.

But to your question: If I could no longer live with the Episcopal Church and its teachings, I would weigh my options and go to a church that nourished me. To try to take my parish church, furnishings, etc. and claim we were the "True Anglicans" would show a lack of integrity.

BTW, I hope I haven't actually "screeched" against +Duncan et al. I believe they show a lack of integrity, and would do well to follow +Steenson's example.

11/12/2007 11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If I could no longer live with the Episcopal Church and its teachings, I would weigh my options and go to a church that nourished me." But instead you stayed and changed the teachings. Lucky us.

11/12/2007 12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is rather interesting for me to read this article. Thanks for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read more on that blog soon.

11/19/2009 8:53 PM  

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