I was looking through a service bulletin of a memorial liturgy that my host helped with the other day. On the inside cover was some info on the church and a bit of information on communion.
The communion bit started out, â€œIt is the practice of The Episcopal Church that all people are welcome to come to communionâ€¦â€
No, it isnâ€™t. When my host mentioned this to the rector â€“ that the Canons had not changed, the Prayer Book has not changed â€“ the rector simply said something like, â€œwell, most everyone is doing it anyway and besides, 70% of the bishops approve it.â€ At which point, my host asked, â€œOh really, during what General Convention was it voted on and changed?â€ Of course, the rector had no response because the official teaching of the Church has not changed. I really doubt that 70% of the bishops approve of such a thing. I know that our liturgics professor at General, who is young, smart, and up-and-coming, certainly does not agree with it.
As much as â€œliberalsâ€ (that isnâ€™t the right designation, because so many of this group are not really liberals, but are ecclesiastical anarchists â€“ or, perhaps, closeted Congregationalists), as much as this group of people want to complain about the â€œconservativesâ€ (see above, but plug in the word â€œconservativeâ€ for â€œliberalâ€) and their violation of their ordination vows and the Canons of this Church by calling on foreign bishops to â€œsave themâ€ from the evil of The Episcopal Church, they themselves (the pseudo-liberals) are perhaps even worse offenders of violating the Canons, the Prayer Book, and â€œdoing their own thing.â€
For the good ordering of the Church, the founders of this Church (who also happened to be the founders of our American form of government), created checks and balances so that what was decided in Convention for the entire Church was thoroughly vetted and well thought through. It is an amalgam of Episcopal and democratic governance that includes the clerical orders and the laity in all decision-making. It is a good thing.
So, now, throughout this Church on both sides of the great divide, we have these groups of people doing whatever they want to do, whatever feels good or right to them, and to hell with the Canons and the Book of Common Prayer. It is anarchy, and chaos is running rampant. This house will not stand.
There are ways to change the Canons and practices of this Church, so go through them. If the outcomes are not what our group likes, whether we call ourselves liberal/progressive or conservative/evangelical, or the great middle, too bad. We then have to decide whether we will be a loyal opposition or whether we will be rebellious adolescents at best and anarchists at worst. This doesnâ€™t give any of us the right to violate vows or Canons. If it becomes too much for us to bear, then we respectfully and quietly resign our orders in this Church and seek out like-minded jurisdictions â€“ perhaps Rome, perhaps Constantinople, perhaps Geneva, perhaps Springfield, MO, or perhaps Salt Lake City. Isnâ€™t this what our new Presiding Bishop has suggested to Bishop Schofield of San Joaquin, and if it is true and good for him then it is true and good for this rector and all those who insist that they know better than the councils of this Church and are â€œdoing their own thing.â€
Yes, there is a time for the loyal opposition to engage in a bit of ecclesiastical disobedience, but order must be maintained and those who violate their ordination vows and the Canons must be ready to accept the consequences of their decisions and actions.
I certainly respect those to who believe we should open communion to all people. The disciples werenâ€™t baptized in the name of the Trinity when Jesus instituted the first communion, after all. According to Scripture, there was still a lot they did not understand about what Jesus was truly doing or who he truly was. Yet, they all did decide to give up everything and follow him (with one notable exception). There can be good theological debate on this issue, but we need to have that debate and bring the suggested changes before the General Convention to decide. Otherwise, we cease being Catholic, we cease being Episcopalian, we cease being a Church that functions in deliberation, wisdom, and good order. We become like the tradition I came out of (American Evangelical/Pentecostal/Charismatic) in which the newest trend rushes through every couple of years.