Wednesday, August 10, 2005

love as self-gift, part 3

III. Best Practices

I firmly believe that situations in the Episcopal Church such as the one at Rosemont have been handled incredibly poorly, and the poor handling of these situations has lent itself to bitterness, no just between the principle parties in the dispute, but between the ideological camps who take up the cause of either party. It is depressing to consider how far Bp. Bennison has fallen in the estimation of conservatives who might otherwise have given him a chance. Likewise, Fr. Moyer has alienated himself from many for what is seen as his grandstanding. [11]

Good practices (to say nothing of “best” practices) are hardly discernible among any of the various parties in the Episcopal Church these days. Too often conservatives cling so tightly to doctrine that they lose their grip on charity. Too often liberals talk about “inclusivity”, “diversity”, and “tolerance” out of one side of their mouths, while clamoring out the other side of their mouths for the ouster of those they deem intolerably anachronistic.

The kettle usually boils when money or property is involved. This is no accident, for what better illustrates Kierkegaard’s point than money? Money is nothing if not the concretized demarcation of mine and yours. A best practice would therefore seem to be one that maximally downplayed the acquisitiveness at play in disputes over money or property. Such a practice would likely involve the Good Shepherds of our contemporary ecclesial culture being willing to forsake all and worship in the local middle school gymnasium if it came to it. It would involve the Bp. Bennison’s of our time not holding their (legitimate) prerogatives so dear that they will not forego them for the sake of love, even love for their enemies.

A word about power is in order. In the polity of the Episcopal Church, it is almost always the bishops who have the real power. Fr. Moyer, for example, could not inhibit or depose Bp. Bennison if he wanted to. That being the case, a best practice must be cognizant of the fact that, barring special circumstances, the bishop holds almost all the cards. This is as it should be. But given that this is so, it falls on the bishop to take the loving initiative in self-offering. Bishops must be willing to make concessions. Storehouses of good will must be built. Trust must be manifest. And if acrimony persists, bishops ought to be willing to part company on the most generous of terms.


11. When he was consecrated as a bishop in the Traditional Anglican Communion, he succeeded in alienating many even in his own “camp.” That action appears to justify accusations of grandstanding, and suspicions among liberals that he was only out for a mitre all along.

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