Monday, April 23, 2012

Bathing and Sainthood

Derek Olsen has a new post (primarily in reference to his Living Church article) which makes a connection I missed. There has been a great deal of complaint about Holy Women, Holy Men the replacement for Lesser Feasts and Fasts and particularly over the observance of days for non-Christians. Or as AKMA says in the comments, "here you have identified the simplest problem with the book: despite its title, it shows little attention to whether the figures commemorated therein are, in fact, particularly holy."

I also have to agree with with John-Julian's remarks: the parishes that would be most interested in celebrating the whole round of proposed feasts are also those which would have the most problem with the proposed observations. But I think it has a very good chance of being passed, because the theological problems don't have traction in a church where giving communion to the unbaptized is being seriously considered. Increasingly it seems that the church is directed by men and women for whom the religious functions of the church are unimportant; what matters is the church as a platform for carrying out a social program.

Of course, this will eventually destroy us. People don't need to go to church to feel good about their environmentalism (John Muir) or their patronage of the arts (Bach, Durer) or their resistance to racism or sexism or anti-homosexuality (here I stopped keeping track); even the heathen do as much. Maybe it's too bloody obvious to be said, but the only way we are going to continue to have an Episcopal Church is to convey to potential members a reason to become Episcopalians! Instead, the additions to the calendar and communing the unbaptized send the message that there's no need to join the church; we give up having any sort of sacramental or communal reason for being. Eventually people catch on, and they don't join us.

I would tend to agree with Tobias Haller that communing the unbaptized will fail to be approved. But I would be willing to be that the number of episcopal and clerical votes for it will be greater than zero, perhaps greater than ten. Maybe as much as a quarter will vote for it. And even if it go down to defeat, I would assume that the practice will continue; discipline, after all, is only to keep the traditionalists in line when the object to innovations, but innovators are empowered to break the rules. In 2015, it will come up again. And unless things change, the number of people who take their religion (as opposed to their politics) seriously will decline. Who knows? By 2018 they might succeed in passing it. But at 3% loss a year, by 2018 the church will have lost another 20% of its membership.

1 comment:

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thanks for this. I've just written an essay for a collection on CWOB, in which I suggest that the Baptismal Covenant has backfired by its inclusion of essentially humanist moral values (which, nedless to say I support as values!) as if they had something to do with baptism -- thus making "being a good person" -- as in the Victorian "how Christian of you" -- effectively equivalent. Your post and Derek's article show, I think, the unintended consequence of having heard that Bapt Cov in our ears for almost two generations: why shouldn't we commune "good people" and observe them as saints of the church? I think you are on to something crucial here, and am grateful to you for sparking the connection in my weary synapses!