Sunday, July 08, 2012

It Isn't STRUCTURAL Reform We Need

It's striking to look at the list of resolutions up at General Convention and see how many of them are ostensibly about "structural reform", and to contemplate what that reform seems to point toward. Now, I think there is a need for reform, but it's hardly the central problem besetting the Episcopal Church. No, as one can see from the rest of the resolutions, the two central agendae of the church are once again (a) making upper middle class liberals feel good about themselves, and (b) indulging in a taste for theological adventurism. And therefore the direction that "reform" is trying to take is to centralize power in an administration to tell the conservative dissenters to shut up and get with the program.

Consider all the fuss about transgenderism. In reality, this is vanishingly rare, especially among women: even the highest "I get to make up a number by assuming this is wildly underreported" values are only a couple of tenths of a percent, and more reality-based numbers give a few hundredths of a percent for men and and another order of magnitude less for women. Yet this is a big cause at GC, with special bathrooms which have been the cause of a few amusingly embarrassing mistakes on the part of the unwary. It's an ideal cause for us because it's nominally transgressive, pseudo-clinical, and cheap. Meanwhile my quite liberal daughter has gotten thoroughly annoyed at all the people in the cosplay forums she frequents who go on and on about how remarkably out-of-the-ordinary their sexuality is. One would think that people who pick a single person of the opposite gender, make a legal commitment to them, and get down to breeding are, well, a vanishing breed. And certainly the agenda of GC takes them for granted, ignoring the much more disruptive issues of divorce and unchastity. But to deal with those issues, they would have to take a very large part of their liberal membership to task, which isn't going to happen.

And consider the current path of the proposal to commune the unbaptized. This is really another "getting points for being ineffectually transgressive" project, at the cost of one of the most fundamental understandings of the church. And thank heaven, the original Eastern Oregon resolution has been set aside; yet in its place we have a resolution from North Carolina which, having been amended, is now proposing a committee to study the issue and make a report. If such a committee is formed, what's most likely to happen is one of two outcomes: either those in control will make sure there are enough heretics on the committee to guarantee a less than orthodox report; or when a less adequately packed committee delivers an insufficiently licentious report, it will be thanked and ignored, and the heretics on the issue will simply press the issue again and again until they've driven off enough orthodox to prevail.

And that's where structural reform is hitting the rocks. The obvious reform that is needed is to get the heretics out of control, and arrange church structures so they can be kept out of control. But where we are actually headed, it appears, is arranging things to entrench the heretics and increase their powers to suppress orthodox dissent. So right before GC we get a presentment against a group of bishops who had the audacity to file an amicus curae brief in some Ft. Worth case, objecting to 815's claims about church polity; and it turns out that this comes from the bishops of two of the rump dioceses. This kind of loyalty oath crap is the worst sort of hypocrisy in a church where every sort of praxis violation is routinely ignored (see under "communing the unbaptized" above: does anyone really think that is going away?). And of course the truth behind the truth is that these bishops were picked outside the normal process and seated by the central administration, so they are very much the agents of the centralization faction.

If these people get their structural reform, we are headed towards a tightly centralized church which enforces a paradoxical theology of deviance; which is to say, the one thing that won't be tolerated is any notion of orthodoxy. I won't be a part of such a church, but then, I don't think very many other people will want to be a part of it either.

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