Friday, July 18, 2008

Anglican Tooth-Aching

Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly . COVER . Lambeth Preview . July 18, 2008 | PBS

Anglicans have been a contentious crowd since the tradition was founded under King Henry VIII nearly 500 years ago. Anglicanism has long stressed unity in the midst of diversity. But now, diversity may be stretching the Anglican Communion to a breaking point. At one end of the spectrum is All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, which has been at the forefront of advocacy for more inclusion of gays and lesbians...But at St. Peter's Anglican Church in Tallahassee, Florida, Reverend Eric Dudley reads the Bible very differently. Dudley had been rector at nearby St. John's Episcopal Church for 10 years, but was upset at what he saw as the increasingly liberal theological direction of the national denomination, especially on gay issues.

In Danville, Virginia, leaders at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany say they've been trying hard not to let church battles interfere with their local ministry.

Rev. COLLEY-TOOTHAKER: My personal opinions about the theological matters which are currently plaguing the Episcopal Church really are not so much of import if I keep my eye on the ball, which is to lead this congregation in the work that Christ is calling us to...Mission is actually doing the work that Christ gives us to do.

Funny how these clerical tooth-achers think that anyone other than their coterie of disgusting old ladies take them seriously or regard them as competent to exercise "leadership."

These priests imagined that they could exercise a prophetic mission, persuading their congregations and the public at large, to accept enlightened upper middle class liberal notions about sexual ethics. But the striking thing is that throughout the dispute NOBODY CHANGED THEIR MIND! Not a single member of a liberal congregation said, "Well, I used to think that homosexuals were perverts and that same-sex marriage was ridiculous, but Father has persuaded me otherwise." Not a single member of a conservative congregation said, "Well I didn't used to see any harm in same-sex unions but now I see that homosexuality is wicked and contrary to Scripture so I'm glad that my congregation has affiliated with the Diocese of Timbuktu." Liberal or conservative, these priests haven't persuaded anyone of anything because no one takes them seriously--or should take them seriously.

Clergy imagine that we look to them for moral guidance, but in fact what laypeople want out of the Church is cheerleading, flattery and social control. They want cheerleading, just as they want cheerleading from facilitators, life-coaches and self-help books. People don't read self-help literature to learn anything they don't already believe: they read it to be gingered up, jollied along, encouraged to do what they believe, on independent grounds they should do. And that's the reason people listen to sermons and read devotional literature. They also want to be flattered, and the Church tells its "base" that they're the right sort of people, that they're virtuous because they're smarmy and sentimental, because they're "people persons." It flatters worthless old ladies by telling them that the woman-shit they do is virtuous and important. Finally they look to the Church as an instrument of social control, to keep their kids in line and, more broadly, to promote good behavior generally. That is what the Church supplies, but these arrogant priests imagine otherwise--they think we take them seriously, that we pay attention to their silly notions.

It will be a long time before the Episcopal Church in the US collapses because there's plenty of bucks in endowment, at the national, diocesan and, in some places, parish level. And because a shrinking minority is still contributing, and because some of those disgusting old ladies will remember the Church in their wills. So, within my lifetime there will be plenty of money for litigation, for fighting the good fight against homophobic congregations who want to affiliate with the Southern Cone or Nigeria and take their real estate and silverware with them

I'm sure glad I dropped out because this isn't what I was in the game for.

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