Monday, January 02, 2012

Ordinariately, Part 1

As the ordinariate continues to take form and the new year rolls over, we have the usual annual outbursts of triumphalism from the various sides.

Things are more muted from the ECUSA establishment side, possibly because the likelihood of triumph in the courts is set against the relentless decline in numbers. And then there are these issues:
  • The obsession with homosexuality: In the Diocese of Delaware they started off the new year with a civil union in church, notwithstanding that I don't see where the canons or the prayer book actually authorize any such service. But hey, Delaware wasn't the first to jump the gun. Of course, it's a very safe bet that the next General Convention will push that authorization through, now that threefour dioceses have been chased off. Which takes us to:

  • Inclusion and the march of heresy: A big topic in the past year has been the push for Communion WithOut Baptism, or more accurately described, the offering of communion to non-Christians. Now, the restriction of communion to those within the church can be traced straight back to St. Paul, and really the arguments seem to boil down to the rather thin belief that we might offend someone if we say that communion is reserved for members of the church. So as usual, inclusion means not standing for anything besides, well, inclusion, which really means only including other people who don't have standards either. This is ultimately the route to driving off anyone who has an any connection to the tradition of the church, so I don't see this reversing the decline. And it puts even more people in the position of struggling with the hierarchy. And looking further afield:

  • The covenant and the communion: In spite of its rejection by most liberal churches and dioceses in the communion, the liberal organs continue to obsess about the Anglican Covenant. They hammer away at the autonomy of the national church while at the same time it is quite clear that the national polity will be used to direct the church away from traditional, orthodox positions. The response from abroad is becoming increasingly negative, as witness the recent disinvitation of our presiding bishop by the Episcopal Church of Sudan. It's hard to see how the communion can hold together. But that's OK for an ECUSA loyalist, because:

  • It's General Convention time again, and that means that no Episcopalian's liturgy is safe. Or for that matter, pretty much any church teaching. It's been long acknowledged that GC is highly dysfunctional, and in spite of the many complaints about, for example, Holy Women, Holy Men, it's hard to see how the many questionable commemorations it proposes will fail ratification. The principle proposals for reforming it seem to me designed to make this sort of process failure even more the norm, by expediting the innovations coming out of the bishops and removing the brakes that the deputies had hitherto applied to them. And beyond that, the materials I've seen towards prayer book revision have been wretched: vapid and polemic at the same time. The best thing that GC could do about most issues this year would be nothing at all, except to repudiate 815's policy of refusing to deal with departing congregations. But that's unlikely to happen, because of:

  • The contempt: the continuing rock-headed hatred of both extremes for each other has meant entrenchment in their respective sins. It doesn't help at all how they are in thrall to their politics. The notion that we could act like Anglicans and try to live together is out the window, at least in the places of power. And power seems very much at the core of the matter. And never mind:

  • The declining numbers. Even after losing the threefour dioceses, we are seeing a decline of some 3% a year in membership and attendance.

There is an obvious message here: what we are doing now is not working. And fixing that is not a priority of our leadership. The temptation to do something alienating at GC is strong, to the end of making at least some people in the church feel good about how right-thinking they are. Actually making the church a place of worship according to the principles our own documents set forth is not only not on the agenda; the current rule seems to that principles themselves are a bad thing, because they are not inclusive. Instead there is a sort of suppressed institutional panic. The one thing that cannot happen is that the church establishment admit that they must make some concessions to the rest of the church, lest they keep driving their existing membership away as they did the three dissenting dioceses; but they realize they must do something to arrest the fall. Thus any kind of alienating change is acceptable, but conceding that they need to respect the orthodoxy said every Sunday: that is not acceptable.


Dick Mitchell said...

Actually I believe 4 dioceses left -- Ft. Worth, Pittsburgh, San Joaquin and Quincy.
And South Carolina (and perhaps Central Florida) are building protective walls.

C. Wingate said...

Ah, you are correct; I was probably forgetting P'burgh.