Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Anglican Schism—Not (Yet?)



The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, kept the worldwide Anglican communion together, at least in the short term, but at the cost of imposing unprecedented sanctions on the US Episcopal church to force it to abandon its liberal policies towards gay people. A communique issued late last night after a fraught five-day meeting in Tanzania of the primates - archbishops and presiding bishops of Anglicanism's 38 provinces - laid new ground rules for the US church and gave it until September 30 to comply. The plan allows, effectively, for the setting up of a church within a church in the US with the appointment of a senior cleric to oversee dioceses which feel unable to accept the Episcopal church's liberal leadership.

So this is the deal, and you can read even more about it, and about what everyone else has to say about it at Thinking Anglicans

What does this mean? I suppose it discourages litigation over church property for the time being and, at least for now, peels off some moderate conservatives and gets them back to the table. But the bottom line is the same, so it’s yet another attempt to stall until everyone simply gets sick of the whole thing—which is unlikely to happen. The pot will keep boiling and is virtually guaranteed to spill over again when that Sept 30 deadline comes. Then there will be more mopping up operations, more conferences, more negotiations, and more stalling and fudging.

In the real world there has been a new intellectual mini-trend advocating atheism but no one in the Church seems to have noticed. Dawkins book, The God Delusion has been on the NYTimes bestseller list for 5 or 6 months but neither liberals nor conservatives in the Church seem to care because as far as I can see they just aren’t interested in religion. They’re interested in sex, in a variety of moral, social and political agendas, and in institutional politics and power plays. A pox on both their houses. I come from the liberal house so I can understand what went on there—but I doubt that conservatives were doing any better.

I dragged on in the Church for 30 years, as fashions changed but the fundamental assumption, that religion was unimportant, uninteresting and untenable did not change. What was the Church for? First, it was a facility to provide people who were idle and lonely, with busy-work, social contact, and a bogus sense of purpose. This was called “empowering the laity.” Secondly it was a vehicle for promoting politically correct views about social issues, the environment and, of course, sex. This was the rationale for the Church’s continued survival: to provide idle, lonely people with social contact, activities and a sense of personal worth and to push social and political agendas.

Promoters of the gay rights agenda in the Church got into the business because they didn’t believe religion was important. They didn’t believe that maintaining buildings as holy places was important. They didn’t believe that liturgy was important, except as means to “community-building” and a vehicle for inculcating politically correctness. They believed that what was important was proclamation—promoting their pet doctrines to the world. Their pet project for the past 15 years was proclaiming the gospel of “inclusiveness” and they overplayed their hand through sheer arrogance: they couldn’t imagine that anyone would have either the power or the intellectual credibility to pose a serious threat.

The Episcopal Church should never have gotten into this business in the first place. No one paid any attention to the official view on gay sex or cared any more than they cared about official doctrine on heterosexual cohabitation. The Church gave tacit approval and there was no point in making an issue of it. But TEC painted itself into a corner: now backing down on same-sex unions and the ordination of sexually active homosexuals would constitute an expression of disapproval—tacit approval isn’t possible any longer.

They’re stuck, and have just postponed the showdown. When the deadline comes they’ll either have to go with the program, selling gays down the river, or else it’s back to go—more fighting, stalling and fudging, power plays, politicking and legal action. The only difference on this round will be the existence of a conservative “church within the church” on the ground, in the US, with official standing in TEC, to make things even worse. Remember, you read it here first.

3 comments:

Kent said...

This prophetic analysis prompts me to ask others out there why many Bishops are now fulminating against the Primate's request that TEC not "authorize" same-sex rites. Since TEC has no control or discipline over dioceses and parishes (except filing lawsuits), I assume this language was carefully chosen to allow winking at 'covert' blessings (not rites)at the local level? If that's the case, the Bishops are painting themselves ever more tightly in that corner.

Anonymous said...

I sometimes think you are one of the only people saying anything remotely sensible about TEC these days. Cheers!
Your Philadelphia Lawyer fan.

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