Monday, November 14, 2005

Fractured Bishops

Episcopals are on the lip of the chasm. They are much like 19th Century Congregational churches here in New England. From the sweeping Unitarian movement fostered by the unassuming Federal Street Church's William Ellery Channing, many of those old-line Yankee churches split on doctrine.

Unlike Roman Catholic churches, where the Pope's kids own nearly everything, the congregations owned their churches. When the majority would vote for the progressive, Jesus-as-man, non-creedal religion, the fundies left in a huff. The common rejoiner on the way out was, "We kept the faith. They kept the silver."

Now conservative Episcopal Church U.S.A. bishops have joined with some Latino, African and Anglican bishops in driving to separate from those gay-loving, pro-same-sex marriage and civil union progressives. The festering lesions erupted two years ago when the church consecrated New Hampshire priest V. Gene Robinson as a bishop.

Note: Remember that episcopal means relating to governance by bishops. They are the decision makers in these churches.

Check the national Website or any of the state ones. You'll find nothing of this, but at their conferences and convocations, the bishops speak openly and strongly. Consider:
  1. Early this month, the Massachusetts congregations chickened out and did the political two-step. They chose not to vote on a report calling for U.S. and Canadian moratoria on same-sex blessings. They called for more study instead.
  2. In contrast the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, diocese reaffirmed alignment with Anglicans in opposing ordaining openly gay clergy and that moratorium. The clergy vote was 85 to 12, nine abstaining.
Last Friday, over 2,000 Episcopal and Anglican leaders in Pittsburgh preparing for next June's general convocation spoke as though the split was just a matter of time. Basically, Caribbean, African and Asian bishops and other clergy gave notice that, come June, there had to be a reversion or they were taking their bibles and going home.

As West Indies Primate, Archibishop Drexel Wellington Gomez put it, he demands an "adequate" response to the warnings, but does not expect it. "(G)iven our present mood, the convention will most certainly be followed by some action. We have worked too hard, too long, to leave it like that." South East Asia Primate, Archbishop Datuk Yoong Ping Chung added, "We sill stand with you as long as you remain faithful, biblical, evangelican and orthodox."

A commission from the Anglican church stirred the pot by demanding an apology for consecrating Bishop Robinson. They didn't get it.

The hard line of the fundies may be most clear in the comment of Pittsburgh Bishop Robert W. Duncan — "There's no way for these two conflicted faiths to live under the same roof."

The two sides seem to view each other as misguided, as either neo-Puritans or fallen modernists.

The inclusionary folks talk that reason stuff, but the conservatives don't seem interested. President of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh, Lionel Deimel said, "My preference is that we all stand together and work out our differences and in some cases accept our differences." On the other side, Archbishop Gomez was, how shall we put it, less concillatory. "Anglicanism is really now in a state of flux. . . . We are being forced into this by people who are teaching something new and something totally different. I put the blame squarely on their shoulders.''

So there.


Sportin' Life said...

Why exactly should the world be expected to take moral leadership from Nigeria?

massmarrier said...

Regional issues aside, this set of demands from the most conservative of the bishiops here, there and everywhere illustrate the division on these subjects. Nigerian, Canadian, U.S. or otherwise, those who want the simple answers do not seem at all flexible. Those who want to include people and evolve don't seem to make any headway with the fundies.

The inclusive Episcopals apparently have made an effort to come to an agreement, a futile and wasted effort. It seems when the fundies feel threatened in thought, emotion or creed, they take a hike. That's not terrifically ecumenical.

Uncle said...

The other half of my religious heritage is Episcopal, and this all-but-inevitable rupture troubles me more than I can say. It will take an already marginal religion one step closer to irrelevance. The conservatives seem to spit on a long and heroic tradition of standing up for basic human rights.

I think of the influential Episcopal vicar of my childhood, a lifelong leftist who put his life on the line at Selma, and I am glad he did not live to see this pitiful state of affairs in a church he loved.

Uncle said...
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