Episcopalians Shaken by Division in Church - New York Times
[T]o the Episcopalians at St. Luke's Parish in Darien, Conn., who gathered with their pastor to grapple with the past week's news about their denomination, it was as if their solid stone church had been struck by an earthquake...the archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, weighed in with a plan of seismic implications to ask all 38 regional churches in the Communion to agree to a covenant that could limit each church's autonomy. Those that do not agree could be given second-tier status in the Communion...The vast majority of the Episcopal Church would be considered the 'off brand,' "
Darien, Connecticut, in case you don't know, is a very posh suburb in the Northeast--the heartland of Episcopaliandom--where no one would dream of belonging to a second-tier Anglican church any more than the would buy a cheap Chinese Louis Vuitton fake from eBay.
At a recent meeting, members of the parish expressed concern that their parish could be demoted to second class status through the efforts of Anglican prelates in, of all places, Africa who, representing the majority of Anglicans, have exerted political muscle to get churches that do not cleave to doctrinal orthodoxy kicked out.
The parishioners at St. Luke's met in a lounge hung with an oil portrait of a rector who served the church from 1863 to 1912. Everyone in the room was white, many white-haired — a group atypical in the context of the global Anglican Communion, in which the typical member is now black, young and living in Africa... David Kelley, whose parents were also St. Luke's members, told the gathering, "All this business of consulting with other churches in the Communion, I'm not aware of the African churches consulting with us."
Of course only a few decades ago the African churches were not merely consulting with "us"--they were being run by "our" missionaries. Until fairly recently the suggestion that the Church in Africa would soon be sending missionaries to us was taken as a joke: who imagined that after sending missionaries to convert them and set them straight about religious matters, they would be campaigning to set us straight?
Still and all, characteristically what vexed the Darien Episcopalians was not the politicking of the African bishops, the covenant proposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury or the views of either liberals or conservatives, but the fact that it had all caused such a fuss.
[T]he Rev. William Sachs, a St. Luke's member who was recently named director of the new Center for Reconciliation and Mission at St. Stephen's Church in Richmond, Va...[said] "What's really going on in the pews of Episcopal churches is they don't necessarily want to align with either side...They want to get on with life. They want this thing resolved."
There is the rub. For the past 40 years, the liberal movers and shakers in mainline Protestant denominations like the Episcopal Church have pushed the idea that the chief goal of the Church was promote a socio/political agenda--and to their horror, for the past 30 years, conservative Christians have agreed. The socio-political agendas were, of course different. Liberals aimed to establish an "inclusive" society where "justice, freedom and peace" would flourish, where citizens would take their obligation to be "good stewards" of the environment seriously and where everyone, liberated from the sense of sin, would engage in joyful, guiltless sex within the context of loving, committed relationships. Conservatives hoped to establish a theocracy based on "family values," where individuals inclined to run amok would be controlled by family discipline, cops and the military, and where there would be a lot less sex.
I do not know how pew-sitters in conservative churches view the social agenda of their leaders, but I suspect that Sachs is right in holding that most occupants of Episcopal pews just want to "get on with life." Most people do not belong to churches in order to pursue socio-political agendas. Most people are not interested in social improvement or political action and of those that are, the majority do not regard churches as appropriate organizations in which to pursue their social and political goals: there are lots of secular organizations, from party political organizations to local groups like the Chula Vista Northwest Civic Association, whose goal is to prevent the erection of buildings taller than 3 stories in downtown Chula Vista, that are more focused and more effective in implementing social and political projects.
The real bone of contention is not the moral status of homosexual activity put the purpose of the Church as an institution. People want to get on with life. They want to go to services, sing in the choir, run rummage sales, socialize at coffee hour, go to Bible studies and do all the various religious things they go to church for without being inundated by the fallout from the Church's crusade for gay rights--or any other crusades for "justice, freedom and peace." And why shouldn't they?