Monday, April 08, 2013

Will the Last Orthodox Bishop Please Turn Out the Lights

Having ranted about Virginia, now I find from Bryan Owen that the Bishop of Washington doesn't really seem to believe in the Creed either, at least not the part that says that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. How else am I supposed to interpret a flat statement that "we don’t know what happened to Jesus after his death, anymore than we can know what will happen to us"?

Some priest, in a "sherry and knives in the vicarage" moment, once told me that what the bishops were doing when laying on hands during a consecration was removing the candidate's spine. These days it seems more likely that they are removing any kind of commitment to orthodoxy. And for all the wimpiness of the 1979 ordinal, we find on the very first page of the consecration rite the candidate is given the charge to "guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church". The first part of that charge is given ritual embodiment two pages later, when the candidate is made to lead those assembled in the recitation of the Creed. So there is no way in heaven or on earth or in hell below that I can find it acceptable that a bishop issue statements that they do not really believe what they say every Sunday. Pike at least had the decency to quit, not that he hadn't effectively trashed the office by that point.

And I do not see the point in founding my life in an untruth. It is a popular defense of such views to claim that the scriptural tales somehow express Truths, but when I at least press against them, seeking meaning, the only substantial truth that I get is that these people don't want to be caught sharing the same theological space as fundamentalists and other political reprehensibles. An apophasis swallows the rest: they can never get to the point of saying that they actually believe anything real about the world. It recalls the "bizarre form of heresy" Florence King attributed to her grandmother: Christianity apparently reminds them of classless places like Lynchburg, Jerry Falwell's one time base of operations. The only solid truth I find is a kind of snobbery, one which has no appeal to me if only because I was raised by mainline Presbyterians instead of foot-washing Baptists or pre-Vat.-II nuns. It's one thing to admit the plainly obvious, that the scriptural accounts are not, whatever their testimony, perfect historical records. But I see no intellectual warrant for the presumption that we can go back and do a better job of presenting what happened to them than they did. The alternative to rejecting the roughly literal version of their accounts isn't some other scriptural truth: it's simply making up one's own religion and imputing it to them. And I find that absolutely uncompelling. The church's teaching may be faulty, but the historical connection backward renders it intrinsically more reliable than modernist restorationism.

I had hopes that Budde would represent some sort of relief from the confrontational tone of the past. But what good does it do when she reneges on her promise to defend the faith? It's impossible to mount a theological apologia of my church under these conditions; every snide remark from my conservative Catholic acquaintances about the vacuity of Anglican theology is vindicated every time one of our bishops publishes remarks such as these. We don't deserve to have a future if we keep going on like this.

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