Monday, April 14, 2014

TRECing to Calvary: Part 1

I must confess that I have paid exactly no attention to the whole re-imagining the church restructuring project. "Re-imagining" alone is enough to put anyone of even vaguely traditionalist leanings off their feed, with its promise of jargon-laden platitudes. Besides, Anglo-Catholics, and probably most of us central churchers of sufficient age, do not have to re-imagine the church: what we do is recollect the church that was held as an ideal of old.

The emphasis on "re-imagining" instead of recollection (or, heaven forbid, repentance) points at the real difficulty, but Derek Olsen's first thoughts about TREC's first outputs point at the issue from a different direction. He writes:

As a liturgical, sacramental Christian, my main need from the Episcopal Church is a functional worshiping community. Thus, I primarily need:
  • A healthy clergy person educated in the teachings of the faith and in the proper conduct of its liturgies
  • A sound liturgy with roots in the apostolic and catholic and Anglican tradition shared in common with other worshiping communities
Well, I have the same needs. But as anyone can read here, these expectations aren't being met even now. When I travel, I have to sift parish websites as to whether the priest is going to deliver an orthodox sermon in the context of a prayer book liturgy, and even then it's fairly likely that I will be subjected to some greater or lesser aberration unless the parish makes a point of proclaiming their traditionalism.

What is "re-imagining" likely to do to make this better? I have to think, "less than nothing." If re-imagining doesn't mean repenting of the theological deviance and litigiousness which have characterized the national church of late, then I don't want any part of it. I imagine a church in which its clergy and people stand together each Sunday and unite in stating the Creed without reservation. I imagine a church where I don't have to go over the service leaflet in order to decide whether I will be able to take communion in good conscience. I imagine a church which has the confidence in its liturgy and music to not change everything for fear of offending some unnameable person. I imagine a church that can speak truth to liberal as well as conservative power. I imagine a church whose preachers can speak knowledgeably and confidently from Anglican tradition. But I don't imagine that I'm going to get that any time soon, except through benign neglect.

And that doesn't even begin to address the structural questions. Susan Snooks has, in a series of blog posts, stepped up to the financial consequences of the suggestion to reduce the national church asking to 10%; in her concluding post she describes the proposal as "utterly unrealistic" and brushes up against many of the other ideas being floated along the way. For example, she mentions the notions that the number of delegates per diocese be reduced and that retired bishops be taken out of the voting in their house. Well, OK, and she points out that neither of these proposals would save much, nor would they reduce the unwieldiness of GC. So what would they do? Well, she raises as a question the likely consequence: it would be easier to push innovations through GC because smaller margins would be needed in the Deputies. One must also assume that part of the reason to unseat the retiree bishops is to reduce their ability to slow change, not they they are effective in that wise now.

Excessive inertia is part of the church's problem, but it isn't church structures that cause that. The real inertia is how we are stuck in a certain 1970s mindset, which I will discuss in the second post.

1 comment:

Fr. Aaron Orear said...

Re-imagining is an act of our will, a means of making the church in our own shape. As you rightly point out, what we need is to recollect the church as Christ established it, and repent of the ways in which we have marred it.

But then THAT wouldn't make us feel good in that squishy way we've come to accept as the replacement for faith.