Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Glance at the Door

Advent 1 came, and the Roman Catholics switched to their more accurate but excessively Latinate new rite, and we quite predictably started off with Helmsley (warning: way over-the-top arrangement), and for whatever reason did two verses of Veni Immanuel instead of the Kyrie, and truncated the sequence hymn, and finally we got to the prayers. And here I was put on the spot: I was called upon the previous week to chant them, but what I was given was none of the forms from the BCP. It was some text from who knows where, gassy and trite, constructed of theological cliches. It failed to satisfy the rubrics, which specify a list of subjects about which prayers are to be made, and it indulged in the presently fashionable practice of refusing to use pronouns for the Godhead. This at least I dealt with by singing in English instead of Theocant, for which sin I was taken to task at coffee hour by a lay adherent of this practice. There was nothing to be done, however, for the failure to observe the rubrics; I toyed with the idea of inserting some scraps of Form I but decided it would be too conspicuous a demonstration.

I had wanted to avoid participating in this at all, but what with Thanksgiving and the general chaos of my life I never got around to demurring until too late. I did find myself telling my remonstrator that I would not be chanting the text again, not because of the emasculation, but because of the rubrical violation. But an attempt to briefly touch upon why I do not accept the neuterist theory of god-language ended up with the other person gleefully proclaiming herself to be a heretic, and then justifying this with "broad church", as if the label were accurate rather than ironic. For of course, broad churchmanship is that most strongly associated with theological adventurism and an inability to live within the canons.

The priest said nothing to me, but then he and I never talk about anything substantial. It is the first time I have had a priest who made me wary of theological discourse. The search for a new rector fills me with deep unease, as I sense that there is a will to steer the parish further from the Zion of Al Kimel's day, and into the surrounding hills where we can be made safe for Inclusivity. I am also beginning to wonder how much longer I will be able to say the words of the liturgy. I stopped attempting to follow the BCP revision materials because they have been uniformly terrible: simultaneously pedestrian and overwritten, and full of every manner of theological innovation. But we cannot talk about these things in any orderly fashion, for fear of offending someone other than a creedal Christian. Inclusivity means never being able to do theology, because theology is exclusive. It really bugs me that nobody seems to be able to simply do what is before them on the page; if the variety of official rites already weakens the unitive significance of a common liturgy, how much more so when, increasingly, priests present the laity with words which are not ours.

I had started on the road to a resignation that, though there was little hope of reversing the trend towards a fraudulent latitudinarianism, I at least could hope to stay with my church to the end of my days. Now it seems this is not to be. And on top of this, my parish is failing quickly. Attendance is off 40% from a decade ago, and is less than half of our peak in 2007; we have run a deficit for at least half the year. The surrounding parishes are not encouraging, and nearly every problem I've mentioned here is emphasized in The Other Diocese. To no small degree it is bloody-minded loyalty which keeps me in an Episcopal pew, but I have no loyalty to liturgies which are not ours; and I cannot have any loyalty to a bishop who cannot say the creed without crossed fingers and who willy-nilly ignores the canons and rubrics.

And thus, I look over at the door, and contemplate the possibility of passing through that gateway, out of this church.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Time to Quash This

Diocesan conventions are the warm-up for General Convention, at least when it comes to the resolutions. Of late a couple of interesting cases have come up, neither of which bodes all that well.

Down in Atlanta they haven't had their convention yet, so this list of proposed resolutions at least theoretically could go down to uniform defeat. That won't happen: boilerplate in support of suicide prevention, immigrants (legal or not), parental leave, health insurance, and against bad immigration law, human trafficking, and the death penalty are likely to be ineffectual; but if one were to publicly come out against passing them, for whatever reason, it would look bad. It's the second to last proposal, however, that has caught a lot of eyes: the Rev. Benno D. Pattison, rector of Epiphany, Atlanta, proposes to "appoint a committee of discernment overseen by our Bishop, to consider these matters as a means to honor the contributions of Pelagius and reclaim his voice in our tradition." Now Pelagianism doesn't have a good rep, even as the various historical revisionists argue whether he actually held the views assembled under that heading. One has to wonder whether this is as much about rehabilitating the heresy as it is pardoning the man. It's easy to ridicule, and the usual places wasted no time in doing so. Update: Over at Catholicity and Covenant it is pointed out that the Pelagians are denounced by name in Article 9.

All of this is a sideshow, for the real menace comes from Connecticut. Its convention seems to have spent less time on fluff self-affirmations and more on administrative housework. But they managed to push through a couple of resolutions that will cause some trouble. You will not be surprised to learn that they now allow clergy in the diocese to act as agents of the state in performing same-sex marriages. It can be assumed that all liberal dioceses will eventually take such action, so it's not surprising that Conn. is taking steps now, though the Usual loud types will go on about it. Far more troublesome is a resolution declaring "a year for theological and catechetical reflection, dialogue, discussion, conversation and listening among parishes of this diocese on “Communion of the Unbaptized” [welcoming all, baptized or not, to Holy Communion]". Readers may remember that the reaction to Derek Olsen's series against this was not all that well-received in some parts. That was simple discussion, but as Rev. Dr. Mom says in Derek's post on the resolution, "dialogue" is a word that should raise a red flag to anyone committed to orthodox positions:
And I’m afraid that you are correct about conversation meaning “we’re going to talk until you see that you’re wrong.” In the forum held the evening before resolutions came to the floor, there were lots of comments that implied that CWOB was a foregone conclusion and we should all get with the program.
It's pretty obvious what the pattern will be, unless the laity step in to quash it: there will be a great deal of talking in which the innovators will use the word "inclusion" in every sentence and utterly ignore the orthodox position; it will be implied that defenders of the orthodox doctrine are hateful snobs; the innovators will declare that the Holy Spirit has moved everyone to a consensus for CWOB; and eventually heavy pressure will be placed upon those upholding the traditional and scriptural teaching on the matter. Even if the laity manage to quash this (because this is the sort of thing that comes out of the clerisy), it's likely to be the case that priests will get away with CWOB invitations, and attempts to discipline them will likely bring us to a Tennis-like declaration that it's not part of our core doctrine.

Somewhere along the line here, the liberals who say they are orthodox are going to have to stand up and be counted. CWOB is so fundamentally opposed to orthodox Christian thinking about salvation, the church, and the sacraments that it has to be stopped. They are going to have to summon up the nerve to tell the radicals that we already have a means to inclusion that we've been given from the beginning. It's called baptism, and for those who never crack a prayer book, it starts on page 299.