Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Episcopal shuffle

The state of the Episcopal church is still in question.  For those of you just getting into this game, last year the Episcopal church elected an openly gay man as a Bishop in New England, which set the church on edge.  There was already tension inside the church because of doctrinal issues, but the gay bishop thing sent people over the edge.  Parishes lost members.  Some churches reorganized under other parishes where the temperature was more conservative.  But then things got quiet for a while.

Enter this summer, where the national General Assembly elected the first woman to head a national Christian denomination.  Along with that was a vigorous debate about divestment of funds to companies doing business with Israel.  But the debate should be illustrative of how off the deep end certain leaders in that church are.

      In a debate about whether the Presbyterian Church should divest from companies doing business with Israel, former Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase noted that the Israelis had their passion and the Palestinians had their passion. The solution, he said, is to affirm and embrace both. The fact that Hamas controls the Palestinian government and that Hamas' passion is to kill Jews and wipe Israel off the map never entered the conversation. Passions are the touchstone, not reason and analysis. His suggestion, thankfully, was rejected.

The article talks at length about this and the struggle ensuing from the election of Katharine Schori as Presiding Bishop, however I found the following statement to be a profound and succinct summary of the problems in the church in America.

      Having abandoned a Christian epistemology and, thus, Christian truths, the mainline/old-line denominations will continue their inexorable drift to the sideline. The current breakdown in the Episcopal church is the natural result of this crisis in authority and truth. The results will be a liberal vestige with lovely buildings and lots of endowment money, but few people.

More recently, we learn that many parishes are now leaving the Episcopal church and choosing oversight from foreign bishops in the Anglican church, who tend to be more conservative.

      These parishes identify themselves as Anglican to distinguish themselves from Episcopalian, which is ironic, since the name Episcopalian came into use in the aftermath of the American Revolution in order to highlight the separation from the Anglican Church, required so that clergy could avoid having to accept the supremacy of the British monarch. Now they are becoming foreign controlled again, and willingly so.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is expected to try and work out a compromise, but Steve Janke thinks that the liberal side of the church won’t buy into it.

          Williams has proposed a two-tier system of membership in the world communion, giving churches with nontraditional views on gay clergy and other issues a lesser role.

      Gee, sounds a lot like "civil unions" for gays as a different name from "marriage". Actually, with civil unions, there was no functional difference between that and marriage -- it was just that traditionalists wanted to maintain the word "marriage" for heterosexual couples for various reasons usually focused on the issue of childbearing.

But no one wants to be labeled into a lesser position, especially someone with American liberal views, so it’s doomed to failure. 

Frankly, I’ve expressed my view that I’m unsurprised by all this, and will continue to be  un-shocked at any cataclysmic event that befalls the Episcopal church.  In my opinion, this is what happens when churches of people try to organize around something other than basic Biblical foundations.  Think about all the non-Biblical doctrine and tradition that hamstrings the Catholic church (now I’m not saying that the Catholic church is not Christian, or that members are not good and saved Christians.  I’m saying it’s harder to maintain correct doctrine and faith in a system that promotes bad doctrine).

In the end I still predict that the Episcopal church will split in totality, the conservatives forming a new Anglican denomination and the liberals forming something like the Unitarian church (which accepts all sorts of stuff as legitimate).

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