Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Be a Bishop OF the Church, Not FOR the Church

Bishop Martins pegs the chief issue with the Presiding Bishop's sermon:
I'm going to cut right to what seems to me a rather larger and more fundamental issue, which is the duty of all Christians, but particularly those in ordained leadership, to operate from within the tradition, as an insider looking out, and not from a critical distance, as an outsider looking in. [....] As an insider looking out, as an apologist and cheerleader for the establishment, a bishop sits under the authority of the tradition, particularly the authority of sacred scripture. There are interpretive roads that are open to others--outsiders looking in--that are properly closed to bishops (and, by extension, to priests and others who preach and teach).
This is exactly right, and precisely delineates one of the two great besetting problems of the Episcopal hierarchy today. There are too many Anglican bishops out there who see their episcopal seat as a "bully throne", which they can use in the interest of whatever their theological or moral position may be, without regard to what the Church teaches. It is not entirely dishonest for them to say,"this is what the Church teaches, and this is what I teach," though it is the rankest hypocrisy to sponge off the diocesan dollar when doing so. But often enough even this nicety is given the go-by. The presiding bishop makes an exegetical howler which everyone from John the Divine to John Paul II would denounce in a heartbeat, and which indeed much of the present-day church was quick to disavow; and yet her sermon put it in the mouth of every Episcopalian.

As Bishop Martins says, bishops take vows to defend the teaching of the church. It is perhaps true that the presiding bishop didn't attack that teaching, though I find that reading of her words strained. And prophecy being what it is, and blowing where the Spirit pleases, the only spirit I heard was that of the Age. Her shaky bridge was constructed entirely out of the common tropes of modernist, semi-secularized textual skepticism of the sort where doubt of the text is supposed to increase faith. It was typical of the strain of modernist solipsism which brought forth all those bad sermons back around Easter and which felt that Jack Spong's nonsense was something that needed to be taught to laymen in Holy Week. There is none of the dialogue and caution which characterized the true Anglican line of theological inquiry.

Thus was the pastoral office abused. Look, whatever the virtue of inclusivity, we don't have anything to say to the much larger majority who are straight and whose vocation is to bear children and raise them. Our bishops and clergy have naught to say to the multitudes who without finger-crossing can say the creed (which I must point out is ritually led by the candidate at an episcopal consecration) except to tell them that there is something wrong with believing what their own church teaches in the liturgy. This is patently destructive. And if a prophet risks all for the truth, it is impossible for me not to see Lewis's "Episcopal ghost" in this, and to ask of these latter-day "prophetic voices", "What risk? What was at all likely to come of it except what actually came-popularity, sales for your books, invitations, and finally a bishopric?"

1 comment:

AAK said...

Agreed. Very well said.