South Carolina has cast down the gauntlet again, and Lambeth inches closer, and the ACN meeting sends Ephraim Radner off to stew in his tent (not that I don't blame him, but that's a different post). It's not a good time to be a centrist Anglican, but then, these days seem to be bad for anything reasonable in PECUSA.
So Father Jake drops a "Welcome Home" plan for "those who may become disillusioned with the apparent splintering that has begun among the secessionists." Well, I dunno. I'm not a party to the "secessionists", but it's been obvious for some time that a division of some sort is necessary. The three "catholic" bishops (as one of my friends refers to them) will not be accommodated in the present Episcopal Church. If South Carolina is having trouble electing a bishop, San Joaquin, Ft. Worth, and Quincy have no hope at all of getting consents. Too many righteous liberals will demand that they toe the line. At this point, it still seems to come down to making sure that the "other side" ends up with as few dioceses and parishes as possible.
As for disillusionment? Well, I at least haven't held out much hope throughout this. I'll talk about the "splitters" in the next post, but there is a lot about them that doesn't appeal to me. But the problem remains that PECUSA increasingly offers the prospect of a church that is tending towards making it impossible for me to worship in its liturgies. I do not think the less radical liberals are going to be able to hold the theological revisionists in check. It's hard to become more disillusioned than I already am, because I feel increasingly faced with having no place to go to church.
But let's get back to Fr. Jake's plan. Let's tart with Point One: "Seek ways to remove clergy from their posts who need to be removed without humiliating them[.]" Right away we have a big problem, because most of the really problematic clerics in need of removal have been on the liberal side. Let's just start with the adulterous: when we look at the bishops, only Jones of Montana was forced out of office. Grein and Bennison's appalling antics haven't brought significant censure. And then there's Spong: if we couldn't get rid of him on theological grounds, we cannot get rid of any liberal. So it's easy to see how this goes: easier removal translates into easier consolidation of power.
Offering DEPO: I suspect why this has been a non-starter is that trust has dropped so far that simple delegation of oversight isn't considered enough. But it's worth a try.
Implement a non-biased way to identify conservative congregations so that they can be more easily found by those seeking them. I honestly don't see the point of this. The problem isn't that the conservatives are hard to find; it's that they seem to be besieged by bishops and dioceses who are determined to end their conservatism if possible.
Make a commitment to not hinder a congregation that seeks only male clergy. Well, this a point that isn't going to be conceded. The big fights in the Diocese of Washington were precisely over forcing Jane Dixon on parishes. I simply cannot believe that the liberal powers would say, "OK, fine, we aren't going to do anything to push you into hiring a female priest or even accepting a woman as a bishop." Indeed, what I see is that the liberal side sees a moral imperative in making all parishes friendly to their causes.
And indeed, Fr. Stockton's reply pretty much says this. It is, again, very much about power, and putting the (waning) authority of the church behind liberal social causes. I tolerated this when I was a younger man, though I knew even then that the coupling diminished the church. The thing is that Protestants are going to pass judgement on the church for doing this, and they are not going to stand for being instructed by it under such circumstances. The Episcopal Church will increasingly sink into being the self-righteous indulgence of upper middle class intellectual snobs who appreciate high production values in their liturgy, thanking God that they are not like those benighted fundamentalists (who are an increasingly irrelevant group, but never mind that) or those benighted Roman Catholics.
Not that the alternatives are looking that good....