Sunday, September 18, 2005

Limits to Insanity

Whenever I look at the theological stupidity and vacuity in ECUSA, it lifts my heart to think:

"At least I'm not in a traditionalist Orthodox church."

For instance, there's the Colorado Craziness in AROC/ROAC. Elsewhere I have commented some on this (see here and here) and you can see a long letter about the deposed Gregory here. So now a monk gets into a squabble, and we have numerous diatribes about this. So I replied:

"And groping I continue to do. I grope for someone to understand. I grope for a kind word. I grope for someone to say, "You are for the Truth Nathaniel, and I stand with you.""

Perhaps it is not clear to you that we do stand with you as to the unworthiness of the deposed Gregory, and that indeed not only have doubts been expressed here since well before the crisis of fourteen months back, I myself have seen a document by one of Gregory's former superiors expressing not doubts but indeed severe reservations, in which stories of his misdeeds are related. But then I have also heard stories about how Gregory was reading men's souls.

So we are not surprised that that there continue to be problems with Gregory. What concerns all of us is the manner of presentation.

In a public forum, the expression of personal concern is very difficult. But what we see is not just the defects of Gregory, but your own airing of what I think all of us believe to be a private matter of your discipline within the monastery. But somehow it is being used as the basis of someone's diatribes against Gregory. And I do not feel that they are truly your diatribes-- not that you have not written them, but that they have perhaps unwittingly been written in the furtherance of another's agenda.

"People complain, "We are sick of hearing from you, Nathaniel. You are a lone voice.""

I do not recall anyone saying anything of the kind-- well, at least not the second sentence. I must confess that I am tired of hearing you, but it's mostly because the hysterical repetition and elaboration of the same accusations does get tiresome, even if I do agree that the object of those accusations is someone to be avoided.

Interest in those accusations has faded as your continued posts reveal more of yourself and nothing more of Gregory.

"Yet for all the "everybody knowing about gregory," he remains alive and well, ravaging and devouring unsuspecting souls, and like a canker worm, eating away any attempts to bring wholeness to the OC scenario."

But I can do nothing, and frankly I think that by now those who can be warned have been so already. And increasingly there is a tone of self-righteousness in the posts, a theme of pride in your self-appointed prosecution.

"Do we really need another OC Jurisdiction in the likes of a GOCA/ gregory? (No) thanks to me, it will not happen this October as was defintly planned by gregory and Angelos. And if it does, everybody will be sickened by the fact that a known pedophile, Angelos, had "laid hands" on the head of Fr George."

But in this you are wrong. The severe problems concerning Gregory were widely known well before his elevation, both testified to by those who knew him personally, and inferred by those who only heard about him second-hand. All of this failed to stop his consecration. Indeed, I am tempted to read between the lines that Valentine did not realize the error of elevating Gregory until he came to Colorado and saw the problems for himself. Thus it seems to me that there will be a good chance that George will feel that hands of consecrating bishops at some time or another, because the lack of order in traditionalist Orthodoxy seems to bring out these crises as a matter of course. We read about the wanderings of Vladimir Moss, Constantine Wright, and the deposed Gregory, and they seem the rule, not the exception. So do not congratulate yourself that George's consecration has been blocked, or for that matter, that you had a part in the current delays.

There is an obvious message in your statement that "I have been in two back to back OC cults": that you are not a good judge of whom you should trust. You should be considering that before you continue. I do not ask you to trust me, though I think my guidance might betray you less than others. But I believe that even now your trust may be misplaced, and that you are being used as the mouthpiece for another's attacks upon Gregory and the skete.

Why am I copying this post here? Read between the lines-- it'll come to you.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Visiting the Past

We installed a new rector in my parish on Sunday. In order to maximize attendance, there were no Sunday morning services, so I decided to go back to my old parish. (Never mind its name.)

When I attended it, it was the very model of a solidly broad church. The liturgy was formal (and sung), but there were no overt Romanisms-- very Protestant and Episcopal. The church is small, and the altar was against the East wall because otherwise there wasn't enough room in the very shallow sanctuarry. The choir area was raised three steps, with a pulpit and choir stalls on one side and the organ console, a big old eagle lectern, and a pew for the servers on the other. The thick stone walls were white-plastered, and above them was mess of dark wood trusses and arches. We used to decorate the church at Christmas by lowering hooks from the peak of the rafters and hanging these huge garlands of holly and mountain laurel among the beams. There was stained glass, of highly varying quality. The rector when I first came was deeply loved, and deeply loving; and his sermons, if heavily laden with the old broad social responsibility, were solid.

So I returned. And now, the choir stalls are gone, and the pulpit is gone, and the lectern stands at the edge of an empty platform. Half of the altar rail is gone, and the other half has been moved in front of the altar, so that the altar has been pulled forward. The place seems strangely bright, and eventually I look up and see that for some unfathomable reason they've painted the underside of the roof white. But it was never intended to be looked at, so the surface is very irregular, and the effect is untidy.

And then I look in the bulletin, and my heart sinks. The liturgy is going to be some of that trial use crap where you can't say anything trinitarian because it contains that nasty word:


At least they take the eucharistic canon from Prayer D, and the confessional isn't too "Oprah", so I can bring myself to take communion. The service lacks electricity, probably in part because the parish has lost its rector in a spat with the vestry, and people are still spooked. There are few people I recognize, almost all of them choir members, who all come over in hopes that I'm thinking about coming back. And I'm thinking, "I'll never come back."

Friday, September 09, 2005

Some Niches Are Just Bigger Than Others

Looking at Al Kimel's post on antinomianism, I am led further back to a post dating from before his renunciation: How to market a boutique church. And I find myself agreeing with half of what he had to say in the latter message. To be precise, the first half.

The second half paints with far too broad a brush-- with William Tighe standing in for Sherwin-Williams. It is perhaps true that the driving liberal forces in ECUSA are pushing towards "high church unitarianism", though I want to save that discussion for later. It is also true that Anglican churches in general, and most expecially the CofE and ECUSA, are not theological monoliths. It's plainly part of the problem that ECUSA lacks (and has always lacked) any kind of theological constraints on its clergy; that is what has allowed traditionally Anglican attitudes to be supplanted of late by theological forces that are clearly foreign.

I'm not happy with Al's characterization of Robert Farrar Capon as a popularizer of Tillich. I must confess not having read a lot of Capon's more recent material, but his older works (e.g. Hunting the Divine Fox are full of the kind of statements that Tillich is alleged to have ridiculed in Anglicanism.

(An aside: Urban Holmes once quoted Tillich as having said that the incarnation was "the Anglican Heresy". I have never been able to find where Tillich might actually have said this. Citation, anyone?)

Anyway-- the point is that, for Protestants looking for a church, Catholicism and Orthodoxy are niches too. Walmart is, after all, a sort of niche retailer; it's just that the niche is really big. Catholicism, for (ex-)Protestants (and especially ex-Anglicans) is the Christian Walmart of "never having to worry about theology again." And just as VGR's niche Anglicanism-- for even (P)ECUSA was much bigger, and remains bigger, than the current liberal fashion-- is a temptation, so is the Catholic Church a temptation for Protestants. In some respects Orthodoxy is even worse, because while you get to escape any kind of liturgical experiments, you also get to denounce everything western.

It's instructive to go to an Episcopal church out west, say, in Great Falls, Montana. at Incarnation they do the 1979 BCP, straight up, no goofiness. There are no guitars, but no strange alterations to the liturgy to trip over. The hymns are sung out of the hymnal, and they are sung seriously. Even at little St. Francis, the tiny church-in-the-round building across town (since closed because the reductions at the airbase deprived it of its parishioners) the liturgy was normal. Out there, the hurricane-in-a-teapot that is VGR and all the works of General Convention can hardly be heard. There is still a lot of life in plain old central church Anglicanism; the problem seems to be that, since it isn't really a niche, it isn't marketable.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Time to Go Back and Read Matthew

OK. So here we have the Salty Vicar:

Granted, for some, life is so challenging that following directions is the best thing they can get from the church. And if my parishioners want that, I have plenty of advice. Sometimes they won't get what they want to hear. But most of the time I can just listen, and people figure out their lives on their own. I think of the Episcopal church as a "listening" church, and for the last 25 years, it's been listening to Gay people. There are plenty of places in scripture where this is exactly the kind of spiritual practice individuals are supposed to have. People are made in the image of God, and by listening to them, we have a clearer understanding of what and who God looks like. Whal Al misses is not that we have a "cavalier attitude" but that we have decided to focus on practice first. And when the tradition is wrong, we change our minds. What are you supposed to do?

So, I go out and visit the Gospel According to St. Matthew (courtesy of The Unbound Bible, I find The Mission Statement (and folks, why does anyone put anything else on a church website?):

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

The difference? Jesus' mission for us is about talking, not listening.

Stop Frank Before He Gives Another Interview!

Courtesy of Fr. Jake, we have this pronouncement from Frank Griswold:

We all claim the authority of scripture. The ancient creeds, the doctrine of the trinity, the nature of Christ -- all these things are not up for negotiation. ... I would say if sexuality becomes the ground on which division occurs, then it means that sex is more important than the doctrine of the holy trinity and the divinity of Christ, which is a very sorry situation to find oneself in. Isn't it ironic that people can overlook Jesus' words about divorce and remarriage and claim biblical orthodoxy and become hysterical over a reference in the letter to the Romans about homosexual behavior? The Bible, of course, didn't understand homosexuality as an orientation. It only understood it as a behavior. Clearly, the biblical writers presumed that everyone was naturally heterosexual.

Right now, I don't have any interest in fighting the homosexuality battle. But +Frank is full of nonsense here. It isn't within his powers to assign meaning to the grounds of the current division.

First: marital scandals of ordinary kinds are rife in the House of Bishops-- and bishops get off for doing them. Well, except the ex-bishop of Montana, who by some coincidence was considered a conservative. So if we are supposed to be resorting to scripture my volume, the liberals are failing.

Second: If a line has to drawn in what passes for teaching in the Episcopal Church, on one level I don't much care where it is drawn. Yes, carping about Robinson, on one level, looks like Donatism. It isn't really, because if that were to be taken seriously it implies that one cannot screen for any sort of moral turpitude. But it isn't really about Donatism; it's about the limits to disagreement within the communion. Now, Frank says that the creeds, the trinity, etc. "are not up for negotiation." The implication is that any kind of moral teaching is up for negotiation, and the rest of the communion-- and for that matter, a large part of his own church-- rejects that. And anyway, as long as Spong isn't officially condemned, must we believe that even the basics aren't up for negotiation? At this point it is being argued within ECUSA in particular whether clerics are required to assent to the statements of the creeds! Not in public, mind you, but priests will remainat their posts and yet assert that saying the creed on a Sunday doesn't imply that they agree with it. Me? I'd fire them on the spot, if I were their bishop.

Griswold likes to claim that things are healing. This is an utterly partisan claim which should be discounted entirely. It's a very safe bet that, within three years, the communion will see a division between the ECUSA (and while I'm at it, Canadian) liberals and the bulk of the communion. And I think it's a pretty safe bet that the CoE, led by Rowan Williams, will go with that bulk. And while I wouldn't bet on this one, a division of ECUSA is also in the cards, because there are enough "conservative" bishops to make a new national church. And thus, it's delusional to think that Frank speaks for his church when he speaks.