I've been an interested spectator to the slow disintegration of the Episcopal Church for quite some time. The schism is inevitable and has been clearly discernible for quite some time even to a complete outsider like myself. Traditionalists have basically been told by "progressives" that there is no room for them in the American Episcopal Church, so why don't they get the hell out.
The reason I'm interested in this sad spectacle is I'm sure this is exactly how things will play out in the Catholic Church once the "progressives" reach the majority. This movement represents the complete politicization of religion. By that I mean, this is the strongest expression of the belief that political ideology, of the "correct" sort, is the preeminent "moral" principle by which every category of human existence must be measured. Therefore everything, including religious beliefs, must be made subservient to ideology. It was once said that the Catholic Church made philosophy the handmaiden of theology. Well, the Episcopal Church is now attempting to make theology, political ideology's bitch.
From First Things: The Episcopal Declaration of Independence
Last week, the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops met and let the world know just what they think of the rest of the Anglican Communion. The official text of their resolutions ran to several thousand words, but for the effect they are likely to have on the church’s relations with the rest of the Anglican world, the bishops could just as well have taken a page out of General McAuliffe’s playbook, saved everyone a lot of time, and issued a simple one-word response: “Nuts!”
At last month’s meeting of Anglican primates in Africa, the Episcopal bishops were asked to do three things: participate in the creation of a church-within-a-church for Episcopal conservatives, promise not to consecrate any more actively homosexual bishops, and promise not to conduct any more church blessings of same-sex unions.
If they did not, the African meeting clearly suggested, the Americans would in effect be choosing to “walk apart” from the wider Anglican Communion. It was rightly described as an ultimatum but nevertheless was quite measured—no one asked Gene Robinson (the actively gay bishop of New Hampshire) to step down, and no one required anything of the Episcopal Church’s numerous openly gay priests. Essentially, the Anglican primates told the Episcopal Church that it would be allowed to push the boundaries, but within limits.
Unfortunately, last week the Episcopal Church apparently decided that it will be bound by nothing beyond itself—not Scripture, not tradition, not worldwide Anglican councils, not anything. And it said so with a vehemence that was surprising, even to many of its supporters.
In their statement, the American bishops accused the global Anglican primates of “unprecedented” spiritual unsoundness and solemnly spoke of the Episcopal Church’s “autonomy” and “liberation from colonialism,” which they understood to be threatened by the creeping rule of “a distant and unaccountable group of prelates.” Apparently, they were serious. With no sense of irony, the bishops of an overwhelmingly white, wealthy, and liberal American church actually saw fit to accuse their fellow Anglicans—many of whom are from poor third-world countries—of “colonialism.”
It is all very sad. One cannot read the bishops’ statement without sensing their anger and impatience. And what is worse, one cannot read the statement without sensing that the bishops have decided, for now and for always, to leave the Anglican Communion and cut conservatives out of the church.
This very clearly captures the almost silly naivete of the Episcopal leadership. Indeed, it is exactly the type of naivete you expect to see from ideological zealots.
Other tings you expect to see is hostility to the ideologically "impure." A classic example of such behavior is witnessed by Ephraim Radner:
I recall only several months ago, at the diocesan convention of Colorado, that a diocesan leader (now appointed by the bishop to a Taskforce on our “common life”) publicly confronted me and demanded that I “and my kind” “leave the church and let [them] get on with ministry”; we were nothing but “dying embers” bringing division and sowing anger within the church. Part of me would like to prove these kinds of affronts simply wrong. Such a motive, however, would be base. There is no point dying with the church, unless one is ready to struggle for the truth.
There is an almost perfect Stalinist moment in all of this. Obviously the "Taskforce on Common Life" will be used as a instrument of ideological purification when entrusted to the likes of folks like these. Shall we start the purges now or later?
Another symptom we should expect is a preoccupation with money, wealth, power and status. Yep, got those as well, as reported by Bishop Steenson.
The majority of the House of Bishops is very anxious to protect the property claims of the Episcopal Church. There seems to be no willingness to suspend civil litigation, as the Communiqué called for, but, to the contrary, the resolve to pursue such litigation is strengthening. I for one have no interest in fighting a spiritual battle on these grounds, but, consistent with church law, I continue to believe that provision needs to be made for those congregations and clergy whose consciences will permit them to go no farther. Here the work our task force on communion did last year may yet prove to be a useful foundation.
Of course the hypocrisy of the Episcopal leadership is staggering. Here they basically assert their right to do whatever their conscience dictates to them vis-a-vis the Anglican Communion as a whole, but if member parishes in the United States wish to remain in the Anglican Communion and find their consciences dictate a break with the American Bishops, well you need to take them to court to confiscate the parish property. This shouldn't be surprising as ideological zealots generally know no shame.
I'll end this with a final thought from Radner:
I was struck, at the recent House of Bishops’ meeting, with the open abuse, often personally directed, thrown at the Primates by many of our bishops. Turning to them, it appears, means turning away from the majority of the TEC’s leadership. Some will ask, of course, “is this not a form of giving up?”. But if we do not do this, if we do not continue to hope in the larger Church, we are all being thrown back on individual conscience – a noble, but weak reed indeed that, on its own, can never save us. And it is far too easy to confuse our conscience with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Folks might want to check this out as well.