Thursday, July 27, 2006

two things: an article about father david roseberry and the ecusa mess, and some remarks about sexuality and schism

The Episcopal Church, one of the most historically significant churches in America, is on the verge of implosion. It has endured schism before but nothing like what it faces today. Its "civil war over homosexuality," as The New York Times put it, threatens not only to divide its 2.3 million members but also to separate it from the 77 million-strong global Anglican Communion.

Once viewed as the Republican Party at prayer, over the past 30 to 40 years the Episcopal Church has morphed into something else altogether, losing much of its membership along the way. The turning point was 1976, when the church began ordaining women to the priesthood, and in the three years since Robinson's election, it has lost the numerical equivalent of a congregation a day. With Sunday attendance hovering around 800,000, the church has come to represent less than 3 percent of Anglicans worldwide and a little more than 1 percent of American Christians, making it, as the writer Allen Guelzo recently put it, "statistically negligible on the horizons of both American Christianity and the Anglican Communion."

A long but interesting article from the Dallas Observer. Read it all here. First saw it at T19. Two things that consistently frustrate me in the media:

(1) They keep saying that the conflict is because of an "openly" gay bishop. Who cares that we have an "openly" gay bishop? The issue isn't his public disclosure of his sexual orientation. Nor is the issue his sexual orientation itself. The issue is his sexual activity. He has broken his marriage vows, and is in a sexual relationship with someone other than his wife, lifelong fidelity to whom he solemnly swore in the presence of God.

The orthodox (and especially you priests out there) need to be consciencious about this rhetoric. Our problem is not with people who are "openly gay"!!!!! Our problem is with sexual activity outside the context of marriage, and we uphold the historical teaching of Scripture and the undivided Church that marriage can only be between one man and one woman, for life. It is quite possible to be "openly gay" and faithful to this teaching. And if you can manage it, God bless you.

(2) The media keep talking as though it is the orthodox within ECUSA who are schismatic. This is not so. I don't think its possible to be orthodox and schismatic, since to be orthodox means to be united in the same mind and the same judgment as that of the whole Body of Christ, because Christ is the head of the whole Body, and not merely of a single one of its members. To separate from ECUSA, and thereby to divide ECUSA, is not necessarily schism. It is not scism, namely, when ECUSA has separated itself from the judgment of the whole Body, as ECUSA has indeed done on many counts. 1 Corinthians 1.10 says "I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions [schismata] among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment."

St. Paul goes on to say that there is only one baptism, that we are not baptized into some faction, nor into some part of the Body, but rather we are baptized into the one Body, into the one Church. In our situation, the relavent fact is that we were not baptized into the Episcopal Church in the USA. We were baptized into the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, which is the One Body of Christ. We are called to preserve the unity of THAT Body, and therefore our loyalty must be to that Body, and our submission must be to that Body's judgment. For it is THAT Body, His One and Only Body, against which our Lord has promissed the gates of hell shall not prevail (Matt.16.8) and outside of which there is no health, no salvation (Acts 4.12). He made no such promise about ECUSA.


mmbx said...

Excellent points! I hope the clergy among you will do exactly as your point #1 implores. You should send this to the Dallas paper. I'm in somewhat of a rage today being tired of taking "it all" silently.

father thorpus said...

Well said, WB. Point #1 is crucial. Point #2 is also crucial. You've shown that orthodoxy - holding the 'same teaching' as the rest of the church - is an essential component of Catholicity. At some point the Elizabethan settlement breaks down. Granted, we as humans may not 'make windows into men's souls', but Christ does, Paul does, the scripture does; and they all exhort us to move toward one mind - the mind of Christ.

Baroque II (Fr. John Cornelius said...

I believe the tragic beginning of the end occured with the church's approval of birth control and the acceptance of divorce as a way of living.

Anonymous said...

FrWB you have articulated this so well. You have made all the points that I have often thought, especially Point #1, re: the real problem with Robinson is his lack of fidelity to his marriage vows. Also, I really appreciated your thought on schism. Those who are orothdox cannot be the ones breaking up the church. Thanks for this post.

mmbx said...

Fr. Cornelius, I remember having a very sick feeling when those things happened.

MM said...

Fr. WB, this is so good. Well done.

father thorpus said...

It's an interesting question, the last sentence of this original post: whether the promise of indefectability extends to national and denominational churches. Surely it extends, if it extends, only along the lines of Catholic faith and leadership (i.e. the historic succession). But if the CofE's claims to succession are true and uninterrupted (as I believe), and the Anglican Communion is justly Catholic, then promise of indefectability applies to Anglicanism as a whole. But we're still left with the question of whether individual provinces of the Anglican Communion partake of this grace. Perhaps the promise of indefectability applies to any church only insofar as it strives consciously to be Catholic -- but if it's a conditional promise, is it really the same indefectability we believe in for the whole Church Universal?

DDX said...

Dear fathers,

Re point #2. Don't let the MAIN stream media or the MAIN line denominations stir your noodles too much. They're ALWAYS on the wrong side of EVERY issue. You don't become the "main" anything in this world without embracing and promoting it's ideas.

"The World" has no NEW ideas. Every idea has an original source, some from above but most from below. The World's marching orders come mostly from the wrong direction so they're mostly going in the wrong direction.

His title, "Prince of the Power of the Air" hints of Satan's media influence.

He's a sore loser but still "The Ruler of This World" for the time being. What d'ya expect?