Tuesday, April 06, 2010

No Longer a Predominantly White Male Conservative East Coast Elite

One of the longer running revisionist talking points in the current battle is to paint it as the overthrow of the old white racist homophobic patriarchy. Our title comes from this remark by the white male Rev. Michael Russell of the Diocese of Los Angeles.

Anyone with any memory at all is aware that this isn't true. I was confirmed into the Episcopal Church in May of 1977, a year after John T. Walker was consecrated as bishop coadjutor of Washington. If my recollection is correct, he wasn't even the first black bishop. Of course, he was very patrician, in his way. Three years previous a set of upper middle class white women were illegally ordained; by the time of my consecration their ordinations were regularized.

All of this was a generation ago. In this age, if race even enters into the picture, it is because the upper middle class is still largely white. Berkeley has always been in California as Cambridge has been in Massachusetts, and social tinkering has never known gender.

The elitism, if anything, has gotten stronger, not weaker. The social stratum of the liberal ECUSA establishment is if anything more constrained than ever. Black, female, poor powerless America is emphatically conservative in church; Latinos, far more so. The current struggle in ECUSA is openly about denying less privileged, less elite conservatives access to the power that church structures afford. Indeed, if you listen to Jim Naughton, it is specifically about denying power to secular conservatives who are supposedly using the church as a tool in secular struggles. But Naughton's old expose implicitly presupposes that those conservatives are right, and so I can only presume that Naughton and the episcopacy he represents have the same intentions. If they are not "rich", it is only in comparison to the resources of a man like Ahramson; for by any reasonable standard, the people who back the Diocese of Washington are wealthy enough, and (male or female) they have access to the educational and social opportunities afforded by matriculation from institutions of the greatest American prestige. The social views given power in the church represent those people, not those of Wheaton College or Notre Dame or Bob Jones University.

Given what I have heard of church life and advocacy back in my single digit years, I do not think that PECUSA has represented a conservative white male position in my lifetime, especially if what it means is a Jim Crow southern position-- for that is what Russell's remark is supposed to remind me of. I would point out to him that I knew several not so young, socially progressive priests in my salad days-- several of whom learned their profession at Sewanee. They are all dead now, as is very nearly everyone who was a bishop back in the heady days of 1964.