He’s right

Considering the post before this one and my general attitude while trying to figure all this stuff out, my former seminary roommate commented, part of which is below. I’ve been thinking about this.

“…I think, and I say this with love, sometimes you are so focused on those extremes that you leave little space in your writing for those closer to your position that still are not in total agreement. (I write this knowing and confessing to my own blind spots as well, many of which over the years you have highlighted for me.) I think some attention to the blessings and grace that still do occur in our church would strengthen your writing even more.”
God’s Peace,

He is right.
The other thing I’ve been realizing is that as I continue to obsess over trying to find a way forward in salvaging this jewel of Anglicanism that I am still discovering (and I know I have almost no influence) from the forces that whether intentionally or by consequence seek to make this Church into their own image even if they destroy it (fundamentalism), I descend into a negativism that really does no one any good. But, that’s what I do. I try to figure things out. If I were smart, I suspect it would be a lost easier.
“The joy of the Lord is my strength…” How easy it is to allow the affairs of the world, even within the Church, to rob us of joy – and the strength that comes through the freedom we have in Christ.

Common-ness, or something…

This is too long, but in my “thinking out loud,” brevity isn’t easy. I am very thankful that this Church makes a place for those who wrestle with doubt. I am very glad that those who find this Faith very difficult to manage are given a place to struggle. Our Tradition dictates that we make a way for those with whom we disagree, for those we may find it difficult to engage, and that we can find our strength and balance in having a wide theological and pietistic berth. It is a strength of our Anglican Tradition.
I love the fact that within this Church we have Charismatic Anglican-Evangelicals and Anglo-Papists, and all the theological and pietistic diversity that comes into play as a result. What a positive witness to the world of a way of being that is so peculiar within the prevailing worldly systems. Yet, our Tradition calls us to put aside all these differences and come to the Eucharist and receive the Bread and the Wine together, to common prayer and worship, from a unifying Book of Common Prayer. We are witnessing the reality that common worship and prayer and means of maintaining diversity are not possible when we all decide to do our own thing – province to province, diocese to diocese, parish to parish, and individual to individual.
As I’ve ruminated before, discipline is very important in this kind of environment, else we end up with chaos and disunity. Benevolent ecclesiastical discipline is a necessity, theological rigor is vital, honesty and good will must be maintained, else we fly apart, we demonize our opponents, we act very unchristian in front of a world that seeks something, someone, someplace that can offer hope beyond what they find with these world systems. We fail them and the cause of Christ when some of us in the aggregate insist on acting the way we have been in this Church and this Communion over the past 5 years specifically and really building over the last 20+ years, perhaps more. The fault and blame lie squarely at the feet of people who claim both conservatism and liberalism, but with the intent of imposing their own ideology on the rest of us. Social and political ideology have become more important than our unity. Looks just like our polarized civil government, doesn’t it?
Over the years, I’ve noticed a shift in part of the ethos of this Church – perhaps only in the leadership (bishops, priests, theologians), perhaps within its very fiber – away from something that sounds like, “The Church teaches, even as I struggle to understand…” to something that sounds more like, “This is what I want to believe, regardless of what the Church teachers.” We continue to move down the path of self and hyper-individualism in belief and action over the Common good – this is a weakness, a proclivity that has and continues to hinder us in our proclamation of the Cause of Christ in word and deed.
Is this Church more like the Unitarian Universalists, that believe that each person can cobble together their own belief system in good faith or is it more like the Southern Baptists that believe it is imperative that all must agree on every jot and tittle, else they be expelled from fellowship? After all, what does light have to do with darkness.
One group shouts, “Hurray! We are moving to the enlightened position of the Unitarian Universalists and we are remaking this Church just like we want it to be!” Even as we lose members and become irrelevant to the larger society. Another groups shouts, “We must stop this heresy and re-impose the faith that has been handed down unchanging since the time of Jesus, else we cannot ourselves believe.” Even as we no longer provide a space for those who doubt or have a hard time believing or are looking for an example of a place where people can get along despite important differences. Most of all the rest of us just want to be Anglicans, as the Tradition reveals.
What have we done with “Doubt,” the twin of faith and necessary for the Faith to be realized, IMHO? One side has elevated doubt into a virtue to be extolled and emulated. Another side has condemned it to be antithetical to a Christian life. Right now, the side that extols doubt to the point of virtue is on the ascendancy. Couple that with our rampant individualism and you have a recipe for chaos and disaster. This is where were we are living. It can’t last. The world isn’t seeking chaos, a place that has no real identity, or a people that have no clue what they believe in common. For the rest of us, we just want to be Anglicans, as the Tradition reveals.
This may be an exaggeration of the real condition of the parishes across the Church. Jason has reminded me that to get caught up in generalities can be problematic, and I tend to. I tend to look at trends – I don’t see the forest for the trees, at times. Yet, I can’t take a broad look across this Church and think that we are going in good direction on the whole. The statistics, and I have the statistics, show that we continue to decline – and that means our positive influence over the powers-that-be politically, socially, and financially for the good of all continues to decline. The path this Church has gone down and continues down – elevating doubt to a virtue, allowing hyper-individualism to overwhelm our Common experience, and putting aside our discipline – works counter to the very things the leadership has proclaimed it be important. We pass resolutions that no longer impact anyone.
As I’ve said before, the clergy take vows to maintain the discipline of this Church through which we received our Holy Orders and are licensed to fulfill our priestly office; we vow to maintain the Church’s teaching in its Canons and the Book of Common Prayer as we act pastorally, prophetically, sacramentally. We are failing the people; we are failing the nation; we are failing Anglicanism, as the Tradition reveals – in the aggregate.

Prayer Book Anglican/Episcopalian

After vacation, after much conversation, after discussion of the expression of a new and unique kind of narrative, after continuing to watch the sickness of this Church and the unwillingness of the patient to recognize its need for medicine or even a need of healing, after seeing the Congregationalist chaos that has overwhelmed this Church – a rejection of the disciplined, Prayer Book tradition – I come to this conclusion:
We all need to be called back to the Prayer Book! We need to simply be “Prayer Book Anglicans” – whether Evangelical or Catholic or anywhere in between. We need to come together again in Common worship – province to province, diocese to diocese, parish to parish, individual to individual. Along with Canterbury, this is a defining mark of an Anglican. We are losing it.
No more violation of Ordination Vows by bishops and priests that ignore the Canons and the Rubrics. How in the world am I to have any respect for bishops that knowingly, willingly, and boastfully violate the Canons and the doctrine of this Church for their own notion of how things things should be done? Why should I obey such bishops, when their example is to blatantly disobey? Not good examples. “Local option” is great for Protestant Congregationalists, but is problematic for those claiming to be part of the Universal Church. (There is a difference in making pastoral provisions from time-to-time and in making pastoral provision the norm!)
We used to be a Church governed by law where we could propose, consistently and thoroughly vet, argue about, and then decide to make or not to make changes (however imperfectly it worked at times). We used to have a loyal opposition that would argue its case, but if it didn’t win it remained and continued arguing – we all worshiped together, in common prayer, using the Prayer Book. We’ve moved too far from this Episcopal model because of the assertion of Identity-Politics and misplaced ideas of hyper-individualism and justice – and most likely lots of other stuff that I am unaware of. Now, we assert our individual – individual – rights without regard for the common good, law, process, discipline… This is chaos. This is what is making our Church so sick.
I want to yell loudly – “Be Prayer Book Anglicans!” Be Prayer Book Evangelicals! Be Prayer Book Catholics! Even be Prayer Book Progressives! How many parishes actually use the Prayer Book as it was intended without looking for loopholes in order to do their own eccentric thing? Do priests with such limited understanding, considering the vast amount of information there is to have, believe they know better than the 2,000 years of lived experience of Christians throughout the world? In our American hubris, yes we do.
Those of us on vacation, after a lot of discussion, well, what I got from it is the need to be a “Voice for the Voiceless.” This time, the voiceless are those who advocate equality under law (abiding by Canons and rubrics), who advocate our catholicity and the need to be concerned with the whole Church and not just this little province (despite how much money we have right now, though quickly dwindling), and for those who wish to be Prayer Book Episcopalians! This isn’t about issues of conservatism, liberalism, Evangelicalism, Anglo-Catholicism, homosexuality or the like – but how we conduct ourselves. Frankly, it is orthopraxis. Its about Lex orandi, lex credendi. It is the Prayer Book.

I’ve been on vacation, and a nice vacation it is. Tomorrow, I go home. I happen to be vacationing with three other priests and a couple lay people who are quite interested in churchy things, so we often talk about the state of the Church, our shared belief that there is little hope of salvaging traditional Anglicanism from the change-obsessed “reformers” (aka hyper “liberals”) or the fundamentalist tendencies of the reactionaries who are ready to launch into schism (aka reactionary “conservatives”).
One conversation got around to the our American cultural tendency to hyper-individualize everything, even if we do it in a group (thus our propensity to continually divide – Protestant denominationalism). So, whole groups of self-identified “Anglicans” gather together and declare that they, the individuals who have grouped together, can determine who is and who is not the true, real, honest-to-goodness, God-fearing Anglicans regardless of the realities of what makes one an Anglican. One is Anglican because one is in communion with the See of Canterbury! A Church is Anglican because the See of Canterbury recognizes that Church as being part of the Anglican Communion. You can’t be Roman Catholic without Rome! We can’t be Anglican without Canterbury. Your group may worship in the style of Anglican tradition, may use Anglican prayer books, or may say that it is in communion with Canterbury as far as your group is concerned – but it don’t make ya an Anglican.
Now, I can also argue another perspective quite easily – if it looks like a duck, if it walks like a duck, and if it sounds like a duck, then it is a duck…
Here is an example from the Anglican Catholic Church, a “Continuing Anglican” denomination, taken from the Affirmation of St. Louis:

The Continuation of Communion with Canterbury –
We affirm our continued relations of communion with the See of Canterbury and all faithful parts of the Anglican Communion. [Note: Because of the action of General Synod of the Church of England, Parliament, and the Royal Assent, the College of Bishops of the Anglican Catholic Church is obliged no longer to count the See of Canterbury as a faithful part of the Anglican Communion.]
WHEREFORE, with a firm trust in Divine Providence, and before Almighty God and all the company of heaven, we solemnly affirm, covenant and declare that we, lawful and faithful members of the Anglican and Episcopal Churches, shall now and hereafter continue and be the unified continuing Anglican Church in North America, in true and valid succession thereto.

They can declare all they want, but it doesn’t make it so. They can affirm their “continued relations of communion,” but Canterbury does not recognize them – it is a dysfunctional, deluded, one-way relationship. But then, they contrive a new way of being Anglican, declaring that the See of Canterbury is no longer to be considered part of the Anglican Communion. This is ridiculous. Under what authority do they make such declarations? Their own, and that’s it – very American, very Protestant, very self-indulgent.
There you go – just make a declaration and it becomes true. “I’m a black, straight, woman and all of you must, must, must believe me so to be! If you don’t, then I declare that you are no longer part of the human race.”
I also recognize that a similar argument can be made by Rome concerning the whole of Anglicanism, but that is for another time and is far more complex.
Really, I think the salvaging of this Church won’t happen until this present generation has retired. The salvaging of the Anglican Communion won’t happen until this generation of leaders, generally and with exceptions, are gone. Recognize the good they did, but recognize also that the times have passed them by. As a 20-something, black, gay, fellow seminarian and Ohioan repeatedly said of this generation of leadership, “I wish they would all just retire so that we can get back to being the Church!” (I added all the personal descriptors because to those now in power who indulge in identity-politics, these kinds of personal characteristics – young, black, gay – add automatic legitimacy to anything he says and make all the difference – cynical I know, but I continue to find it to be the truth.)