Monday, November 19, 2012

All According to Plan

So, it has happened as everyone could have guessed it would: the patently false abandonment prosecution advanced, and South Carolina quit the denomination, exactly, I suspect, as everyone wanted. I mean, the StandFirmites are quite joyful about it, of course. The Episcopal Cafe folks are all full of righteous condemnation, but given a choice between Lawrence enthroned and the loss of the diocese, I surmise that they'll settle for his deposition however they can get it.

And we all know what comes next. 815 will go to court to seize control of the properties and the diocesan corporation. Based on the precedent of the previous cases, this will drag on for years and eat a huge chunk of the national church budget, impoverishing both sides of the dispute to no great Christian purpose. Given SC law it's possible that the national church will end up with nothing other than the handful of parishes which decide not to follow the rest of the diocese. Another big notch will be taken out of membership and attendance (1% and 1.8% respectively) and if they win in court, the rump diocese may have a bunch of real estate which they can't fill and will end up selling to whoever will take it. A lot of angry words will be thrown about to no real purpose other than the gratification of those tirading. In three years it will be easier to pass the progressive program at GC because one more orthodox voice will be absent, replaced by someone congenial to the head office.

And to what end and purpose? I am sure that the average parishioner will continue to be kept in the dark by his priest, and that attendance at most parishes will continue to slide. Attendance at the other four rump dioceses will continue stagnant; their new "inclusivity" will not save them. I would not be surprised to see Quincy disappear (there are many, many parishes which have a higher attendance), and the Great Lakes dioceses consolidated. The continued panicky rejection of our liturgical heritage will continue to be proposed. Inclusion will more readily dictate the permission to use heretical language for God, because more and more orthodox people will give up the fight. 815 will continue to control the church in most places, if not in South Carolina, but the value of this control will continue to decline.

Sensible voices urging tolerance and reconciliation were raised, and ignored. Righteous anger prevailed, and those of us in the middle were left standing alone in dismay. Schism is, as Fr. Jonathan writes, always sinful; but the sin adheres no only to those leaving, but often enough, those who worked to drive them away. The fight against SC was spiritually unnecessary and spiritually dangerous. We are not really inclusive: we only really want people who share the values and prejudices of our liberal, upper middle class. And to do that, our hierarchy has increasingly demonstrated that it will sacrifice essentially any principle of our faith to gain the approbation of our secular peers. Meanwhile the schism-fomenting traditionalists work to destroy their old church, at whatever cost to their own souls.

Bishop Martins is right, and if he had been heeded, I think we could look to an Episcopal Church which had something to say about Jesus. But instead, one can run through the Sermon on the Mount and pick out, clause by clause, how Jesus has been contradicted. It is perhaps not too late for all parties to repent, and for South Carolina to be reconciled. But I cannot imagine that happening.


AAK said...

Well said. Another sad moment in a long procession of sad moments.

Anonymous said...

I truly don't understand the logic behind DSC's decision. If the position is that GC/815's changes to Title IV, SSBs, etc. are all illegitimate actions that have no effect in DSC, then it follows that there's no reason to depart from a body that doesn't have any particular claim to the DSC's allegiance anyway.

The whole mess is akin to having a wife or husband carry around unsigned divorce papers in their back pocket, threatening divorce if This One Last Thing happens, but predicating This One Last Thing on behaving as if a marriage is in place.