Sunday, June 12, 2011

Third Time the Charm

Word has reached me that Al Kimel has been ordained again, this time in a complicated three-way arrangement between the OCA, ROCOR, and the Antiochians, the latter being where he is going to function as a western rite priest.

His second ordination hurt, and though he had cut off communication between us, word did get back to him and he eventually published an apologia if not an apology. Now, I have little use for the argument he made, and if I have not formally forgiven him, time has put the hurt in the past. But it is all vacated, so that when he said
I have never, of course, denied the presence of God within Anglicanism nor have I denied God’s use of my priestly ministry during my twenty-five years as a priest in the Episcopal Church. I rejoice that many of those whom I have been privileged to serve testify that I have been a vessel of God’s love and holy presence in their lives. It is unfortunate that Charlie has interpreted my conversion to Catholicism as a denial of such grace. Perhaps even more unfortunate is his apparent misunderstanding of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church on the reality of God’s grace within the Churches of the Reformation.
... my unwillingness to rely on his exposition of that "authentic teaching" is now made all the more easier by his abandonment of that authority for yet a third church. I've said it so many times, but it bears saying again: there is something fundamentally Protestant, and deeply unfaithful, about wandering from church to church based on one's own theological discernment. I regard this as one of the most spiritually dangerous practices out there, and I've seen so many people who have been deeply hurt by it, some to the point of apostasy. ECUSA may be the Whore of Babylon, but she's my whore, and I was called to her; I may eventually be driven elsewhere, but it won't because I went church shopping, nor because I divorced her in favor of another.


Anonymous said...

No matter what innovations occur, the TEC will never deny you communion, so if you ever feel driven out, won't that be based on your own theological discernement?

It's laudable to be faithful even when you are more or less cast into Hosea's position. But what do you do when you have young children, and you are in a solidly revisionist diocese? Go parish shopping until you find a rector that seems to be more of a centrist, even though there are 6 TEC churches closer to you? Drive almost 2 hours one way to attend a TEC church in the neighboring diocese? This strikes me as a milder form of church wandering.

Some times you can't stick around.

- Steve

C. Wingate said...

Well, my wife and I searched for houses close to the parish we already attended (and where Al was then rector). Eastman was still bishop then and he and Al were perpetually at odds with one another, but about the only way this was visited upon the parish that was negative (from my PoV, anyway-- I gather there were others who held different views) was that Eastman invariably made his visitation on Low Sunday, year after year. Eastman retired, and the diocesan blood pressure dropped considerably; Ihloff presented his own theological issues, but sub mesa, as it were.

The thing is that, for a parishioner, the bishop isn't much of a presence. In a lot of dioceses, even pretty radical bishops adopted all sorts of live-and-let-live arrangements with their reactionary parishes. I was quite astonished to learn, for instance, that Ackerman was allowed to make an episcopal visitation to Mt. Calvary in the past year. The visitations of Jane Dixon that were forced upon the parishes in Washington were really something of an aberration.

What the rector does is another matter. We are searching for a new rector, and I am more than a little nervous that we may get someone who monkeys with the rite to the degree that I can no longer say it, or who presents it in a way that I can no longer bring myself to participate in it. If this comes to pass, I will have to find another place to go to church, as has happened once already in my life. One can perhaps be expected to tolerate a lot of parish flaws, but within limits there isn't really anything that wrong with parish-shopping; as in everything a sense of proportion is key. I don't take seriously the notion that I have to subject myself to a guitar service merely because that is all I can get at the most convenient parish; on the other hand rejecting a parish simply because the people aren't in your social class is generally not spiritually sound.

Little of this is relevant to a cleric, of course, especially in ECUSA where one has wide latitude in how one conducts services. Al went from Maryland, perhaps somewhat hostile, to South Carolina and then Pittsburgh, two of the most conservative dioceses in the country. He talked himself out of the church and made his situation untenable on his own, not because he was oppressed by problem bishops. All of this was out in public in his (old) blog, now more or less entirely lost due both to the failure of the ClassicalAnglican servers and to a program of erasures.

When you create an "intolerable" situation by passing judgement on problems that aren't really visited upon you in any concrete way, you create a church of one. YOU may harbor yourself in some other church's authority, you may even hold that church infallible, but the tendency is to find fault with that church and go elsewhere. I do not think this is the same thing as fleeing your old parish because the rector is imposing worship upon you which you cannot tolerate. Sometimes you can't stick around, but I don't think this is one of those times.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting response, much that I could comment on but not enough time. I sincerely hope that you will continue to be able to worship with integrity at your present parish and within the TEC, even though I came to a point where that was no longer possible.

I don't know Fr Kimel except as one of the many (in his case former) blogging priests. Even so, I'm quite surprised by a move to ROCOR, which is the smallest and most conservative Orthodox church in North America. All of the Orthodox churches have their problems (and that is where I am now - GOA), although the OCA and the Antiochians currently have the biggest internal issues.

Perhaps I'm interpreting 'pass judgment' different than you meant, but doesn't everyone do that with their home church (and of course other churches)? It's so American. In the end, there are problems you can live with and problems you cannot.

I'm beginning to think it's close to an utter waste of time to read religious blogs, as given enough time many of the authors will have made major church changes 2-3 times. The Orthodox had recently a fairly prominent one swim the Tiber(guy who went by the monikor 'Ochlophobist'), although the sorts of things he railed against I never saw locally - we don't have any Ancient-Faith-Radio type converts from Evangelical quarters. GOA problems tend towards nominalism and phyletism. But I'll take that over inescapable heresy from the pulpit.

- Steve

C. Wingate said...

Oh yes, Owen White! I'm beginning to wonder if RC-to-Orthodox converts aren't subject to a certain extra craziness.

There are sane bloggers out there. The people I link to in my sidebar are generally rational and orthodox.

I was introduced to the eastern churches on the immigrant, cultural side first: I sang in the Slavic Male Chorus of Washington for many years. Somewhere over half the guys were 1st/2nd generation Slavs; a large chunk of the rest were Anglicans with a couple of Catholics and a Greek thrown in. Some of the guys went to the ROCOR cathedral, and some to the OCA cathedral. Most of the guys were fairly religious but they were not the sort who went to the ROCOR church because it was "truer"; they went to it for historical reason, i.e., that is where they had always gone.

Bloggers tend to be the kind of people who take umbrage at everything; it's in the nature of the medium. I am by nature the sort of person who is always trying to find the difficulties, so my posts tend to be reactive and often negative, but I don't have the same kind of ideological commitments that bloggers commonly have. Mainstream orthodox Anglicanism isn't like that.

Really, I'm coming from the same position as you are in your third paragraph. But what I also see is that a lot of people go out of their way to find things they can't live with. Blogging enables these people a great deal, because the medium rewards people who can find something to rant about every day. People who have real problems in their lives don't have the time.