Friday, July 21, 2006

new church, new bishop

The following is from Father John Heidt. I had the privilege of having lunch with him, and with Father Nelson today. Read the whole thing here.

In a stunningly predictable move, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church elected the first ever female Presiding Bishop and the only woman Primate in the Anglican Communion. Pundits are saying that the election was somehow engineered, but perhaps this is cynical. Bishop Schori comes with excellent credentials to head up the ECUSA at this pivotal moment in its history; it should be clear to all that she has a wealth of experience relevant to governing the steadily shrinking Episcopal Church.

As Bishop of Nevada, Schori not only knows what its like to minister in a desert wasteland, she also understands numbers, having a weighty thirty five parishes and six thousand people under her pastoral charge. And in a Church which has committed itself to a whole new way of Christianity, why not elect someone with a little over ten years experience of ordained ministry? After all, freshness to the business might be beneficial in the new world of ECUSAn Christianity. Likewise with Divinity, a Presiding Bishop hidebound to the dogmas and beliefs of the past would be a disadvantage to headship in the new Episcopalian polity. This isn’t a concern with the new “PB,” she has plenty of academic experience, but not in theology. Her expertise is in marine biology and oceanography, making her a fitting successor to Griswold and his “sea of faith.”

Still, despite Schori’s obvious symbolic qualifications for the job, its only fair to ask what her election means for those few “Old Church” holdouts that are left in ECUSA, to say nothing of the awkwardly large number of Anglicans worldwide who refuse to accept her orders as a Priest, much less Bishop and Primate of a Province. So, what does it mean? It seems that a consensus is emerging among the traditionalists at the Convention. They feel that Schori’s election brings further clarity, if it were needed, to the position that the Episcopal Church now occupies. For them, a schismatic ECUSA has elected a truly representative leader and this is no bad thing, as it forces Anglicans to make a choice, to be for or against the “new religion,” as embodied in the person of the world’s first woman Primate.

Are traditionalists right in thinking this, does the first ever woman Primate really personify a radical departure from the Faith and Order of the Church? It seems that she does for at least two reasons. Firstly, as her orders are not universally accepted, either at home or abroad, she has no choice but to exist as a center of division in an office whose nature is essentially one of unity. In her person, Schori stands for a new understanding of the episcopate, one that is based on “justice” and “inclusion” rather than the common position of the Church. That ECUSA should enshrine this in the office of its chief Bishop signifies, at the very least, ignorance of the commonly held catholic conception of Holy Order and quite possibly a deliberate movement away from it. Either way, Schori’s election indicates the Episcopal Church’s de facto rejection of apostolic norms. Secondly, Schori’s wholehearted support of the gay and lesbian platform signals clear disregard for Scriptural morals and the Tradition of the Church. So, it appears that the traditionalists are right; that Schori’s election is emblematic of the New Church that ECUSA has voted into being, an ecclesial body that has swapped out Scripture, Tradition and revelation for the threefold mantra of “justice, inclusion and peace.”

The tragedy of it all is that ECUSA, or rather “TEC” (The Episcopal Church), has achieved the exact opposite of its laudable goals of establishing justice, inclusion and peace. There is no justice under Schori, no “fair play,” for orthodox, or even conservative Anglicans in her jurisdiction. This minority does not have a Chief Pastor, a principle locus of episcopal authority, of sacramental and pastoral oversight. Their consciences and the integrity of their convictions have been written off, along with the majority conviction of Anglicans worldwide. If this is TEC’s version of even handed justice, one hates to imagine how things would pan out if they had opted for a more oppressive approach.

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