Monday, May 16, 2005

bishop theologians... or the lack thereof

It occurs to me -- just a thought, really -- that maybe the reason there are almost (absolutely?) no bishops in ECUSA who are very theologically sophisticated is because ECUSA is overly democratic in its canonical / constitutional functioning. What I mean is that becasue bishops must be elected by their jurisdictions, and because their election must be ratified by General Convention, we wind up with a bunch of crowd-placating compromisors. There are certainly no N.T. Wright's in America, no Rowan Williamses. And it seems as though there have not been any for a very long time. In fact, I can't think of any American episcopal (in the broad sense) theologians. Does Philips Brooks count as a theologian bishop, or was he merely one of the first true heretic bishops? Does anyone know?

12 comments:

adam said...

You might be on to something here. Thus the state of ECUSA right now. Sad. Very sad.

J-Tron said...

What concerns me most is less the lack of theologians in the American episcopate (although that is concerning), and more the lack of pastors. We've turned the episcopate into such an administrative function. It's corrosive to a diocese to have no kind of relationship with the bishop.

Alan said...

Folks, I'm the devil who whispered such a thought into WB's ear, and well my rector whispered such a thought into my ear. All because I asked him why good women/men don't want to become bishop in the U-S-A but the Brits always seem to have smarter bishops. The basic idea is this: in the COE, Parliament has to approve who gets elected bishop, and they end up with an even split between the 3 parties: Anglo-Catholic, Broad and Evangelical. Hence they get Bp. Rowan Williams, John AT Robinson, and NT Wright. Here, in America, you have to run for office, get popular, and the office turns you into a bureaucrat (see Dogbert's theory). Here we end up with Bp. Griswold, Spong and Iker. While I'm no fan of Spong, he's a far more interesting character than Frank & Jack. But the contrast with the mother church is embarassing.

Or maybe the incense is better in the UK.

father wb said...

The incense is, generally, much better.

But I think you're wrong, Alan, about the relative merits (lack of demerits?) of Spong and Griswold. I think Griswold's much less worse. At least he's coherently incoherent -- i.e. his system is radical incoherence under a veil of Christian aesthetics / rhetoric. Spong merely, and unapologetically, kowtows to the agenda of the far-Left political. I mean, Spong doesn't even have Christian PRETENSES. He wants to pitch the Bible (Theses 5 and 9), pitch the Tradition (all the Theses), pitch Jesus (Theses 2 and 6), pitch Theism (!) (Thesis 1).

To me that's not interesting. Its just warmed over, disingeuous, 18th century political secularism.

Philip said...

My Unitarian Sister has more respect for the Gospel than Spong.

Anonymous said...

AMEN BROTHER! I completely agree. We have no theological leadership in the HoB other than Tracy and Spong (both as we have seen are questionable). The structure of ECUSA is set in a way (politically speaking) that we will never have first rate theologians. I can think of a few Bishops who are fairly orthodox, but many in their diocese believe they elected a different bishop than what they currently have. Meaning, while they were running for bishop they presented a theology more in line with ECUSA and after the election drastically changed their position. This scenerio can go the other way as well. The fact of the matter is that we are up a creek without a paddle.

lan said...

I see I have miscommunicated with my choice of the adjective 'interesting' for Spong's necro-theology, bearing an uncanny resemblance to the 'Death of God' theology from the 60s. At least Spong writes better than Tillich.

Perhaps, I should have said 'inflammatory' or 'consistent' or 'not insipid'.

So Fr. WB, how many hail marys should I say to do proper penance?

Alan said...

I have also multiplied my sins by pressing the 'publish' button too soon. lan = alan.

father wb said...

You've got to go to confession first. But I would say five Hail Mary's. Three if they're in Latin.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus et benedictus fructus ventris tui Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis pecatoribus nunc et in hora mortis nostre. Amen.

That's probably mostly spelled incorrectly. Now I need a penance. Five Our Father's / three Pater Nosters?

To bed!

Thorpus said...

Recently George Werner, president of the House of Deputies, came to speak at my parish where he once was curate. I had the privilege to eat lunch with him at my rector's house afterwards, and during lunch he made a comment similar to yours, WB. He said the process of epicopal elections that we have now tends to filter out anyone who could be thought of as an extremist on either end and exalt those who are in the middle (which just means they are too wishy-washy to make a stand -- I note that leadership never comes from the center, cf. Akinola and Griswold). What we end up with, according to Werner, is a HOB filled with compromisers instead of real leaders.

I think the same goes for theologians and pastors: if you're really good at either of those, they don't tend to elect you bishop but keep you where you are. People are afraid you'll be a bookworm if you're a theologian, or not a good administrator if you're a good pastor. It's the same quandry as many a parish has in choosing a new rector. The perfect rector, who's academic without being a bookworm, pastoral without being too sensitive, administrative but not exclusively, young but also experienced, with a pretty wife and 2.5 well-behaved kids who really WANT to spend all their time at church, not ambitious but powerful in the diocese, plays the organ with the skill of a professional (just in case), walks on water, and who knows what else -- just doesn't exist. We have a similar set of unrealistic expectations for bishops and it's hard to find a real person to fit them. Hence there is little character in the HOB, that is, there are few specialists in theology or pastoral skills or administrative skills: and no one looks for a specialist to fill an empty episcopate. It's like a painting with washed-out colors, instead of a bright and vibrant picture with contrasting and complimentary hues. But that's ok, because we aren't filling any episcopates right now anyway.

PGT III said...

Thorpus and I shared a similar conversation earlier this year (I think in the fall) bemoaning the decline of the pastoral episcopacy. I've been griping about ECUSA's wrongheadedly democratic polity, with all its attendant consequences, for some time now (just ask J-Tron). It's good to hear that there are others thinking along the same lines.

The Ranter said...

Does your bishop know you have this blog, you brave, brave soul??
I'm not even in the ordination process, nor do I ever aspire to be in the ordination process, yet I blog under some secrecy. You must be very brave, or very reckless. Either way, I wish you the best.