January 27, 2006

That's My Church!

Mark Tooley writes at the Weekly Standard about the short-lived tee vee series The Book of Daniel (a sort of Desperate Housewives Go To Seminary ) and asks:

Sleeping around. Homosexuality. Thievery. Ecclesial chaos. Abuse of prescription drugs. Lots of people with more money than common sense. Is this what the U.S. Episcopal Church really looks like?

Although Tooley spends the bulk of his article refuting it, the answer to this question is, "Well, pretty much." However, Tooley correctly nails a couple of howlers in the show:

But the funniest aspect of the Book of Daniel is the portrayal of Daniel as a rebel confronting a conservative church hierarchy. Daniel nervously postpones telling his stuffy father, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal church, about his homosexual son. In fact, real-life Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, an enthusiastic supporter of his denomination's first openly homosexual bishop, would probably warmly embrace a gay grandson.

After Daniel delivers an especially liberal sermon dismissing the threat of temptation, an angry Bishop Beatrice (played by Ellen Burstyn) warns him to be careful. "Canterbury" (as in the Anglican Archbishop of) is "spanking" the American church for getting too theologically loose, she threatens. In real life, of course, it is not the relatively liberal Archbishop of Canterbury who has been chastising the U.S. Episcopal Church, but rather the orthodox Anglican bishops of the Global South--especially Africa.

Unlike the fictional Bishop Beatrice, the real-life Episcopal bishop of Connecticut is acting punitively against six of his priests for their attempts to protest against their denomination's liberal policies. A truly provocative program about the Episcopal Church might showcase one of these orthodox priests trying to stand against the liberal church hierarchy. Perhaps that would be too edgy.

Indeed. Oh, and Tooley picks off another one:

There is another detail in Book of Daniel which rings untrue: Daniel's church is packed with people every Sunday. The Episcopal Church is actually dwindling in size, a decline accelerated by recent controversies over sex and theology.

If you want to know, the Church leadership continues to believe that this decline is due to the Church not being "welcoming" enough and therefore that even greater effort must be made to stomp out anything that would interfere with the ultimate goal of "inclusiveness". What they refuse to accept is that it is this very process and the resulting "anything goes" spirit - both from a theological and a social standpoint - that are the very causes of the Church's decline.

For some time now, the question of jumping has to me not been so much one of "if" as "when" (as well as "Where to?"). I still don't know the answers.

Posted by Robert at January 27, 2006 02:25 PM | TrackBack

I haven't figured out the answers yet either.

Posted by: Ith at January 27, 2006 02:52 PM

Yes, well we know where all roads lead, don't we . . .


Posted by: The Colossus at January 27, 2006 02:59 PM

Catholic attendance is way down too. I am sure it is their anything goes attitude as well. Pope Benedict is gearing up for his "Summer of Free Love" tour...

Posted by: LB buddy at January 27, 2006 03:00 PM

Robbo, the doors of Roman Catholic Church are always open......

Posted by: KMR at January 27, 2006 03:05 PM

If there is "anything goes" attitude in the Episcopal Church, then shouldn't that include not going to church? Wow, there are now millions more Episcopalians, we just didn't realize it.

With the growth of newer mega-churches (which tend to very conservative positions, e.g. abortion & homosexuality) and even Mormonism, the case could be made that the old establishment churches are slipping, regardless of left/right politics.

Posted by: rbj at January 27, 2006 03:06 PM

See? Vatican II. Big mistake.

Posted by: Robbo the LB at January 27, 2006 03:07 PM

Actually, LB Buddy, a lot of American Catholics do defy the Church and take an anything goes attitude. It's an open secret hat a lot of priests are gay. That defiance and a dwindling of the old ethnic neighborhoods that used to sustain urban parishes are major causes of their decline. Don't mix apples and oranges.

And Robbo - y'all are welcome over with us Baptists ;-).

Posted by: John at January 27, 2006 03:07 PM

Hmmm...as far was the "where to" question, my answere is: where ever you feel most comfortable. I started out in the Lutheran church, but somehow wound up in an Evangelical Presbyterian church. They seem to be pretty conservative, but, and I'm just speaking for myself here, what matters most to me is the message I get on Sunday morning and how I feel when I walk out. For me it's more about what I believe spiritually than what the church as a whole thinks.

I will say, though, that I've encountered other mothers in this church who refuse to let their kids go trick or treating and don't tell their kids anything about Santa...just a couple of off hand examples.

If you're ever over in OH you can go with us some Sunday morning.

The Book of Daniel was discussed at my Bible study one evening, and the very conservative women were angry about it because it "made fun of Christians." (Their words, not mine.)

Posted by: GroovyVic at January 27, 2006 03:15 PM

I never got around to seeing The Book of Daniel, and now it looks like I dodged that bullet. Honestly, I had no idea the show had such lousy research. I don't think I even know any Episcopalians, and even I know that the show's portrait of the church is wildly inaccurate.

Incidentally, Philip Jenkins' book The Next Christendom gives an excellent look at the North-South split in Christianity in general and the Anglican communion in particular. If you haven't read it, it's well worth checking out.

Posted by: utron at January 27, 2006 03:54 PM

I cant resist Robert - please consider the ACC - www.anglicancatholic.org

Posted by: Sharon Ferguson at January 27, 2006 04:16 PM

A site you may find of interest: the Anglican Use Society

Posted by: MCNS at January 27, 2006 04:48 PM

One has to wonder what they were trying to accomplish; people outside the church will not be fascinated by the bathos, and neither will people inside the church. If they were hoping to pick up the schadenfreude crowd, they overestimated.

Good luck finding a good church. The irony is that good conservative family-oriented churches like my old one are growing, in spite of their stand against oversight by apostate bishops, and the very real threat that brings of being evicted. You might find this listing of ACN congregations in Virginia helpful.

I'd have laughed out loud over the whole "Canterbury spanking the American church" line. What a joke.

Posted by: tee bee at January 27, 2006 04:55 PM

Yep, sounds exactly like my Episcopal church. I jumped a couple of years ago and had to search far and wide--now spend some time at evangelical service and some devotional time at home with kiddos. Kiddos still go to Episcopal school though, but that's an issue of a different color. Keep looking, good luck.

Posted by: ViVi at January 27, 2006 08:50 PM

Have you tried Frizbyterianism? We believe that when you die, your soul ends up on a roof somewhere.

Posted by: Gordon at January 28, 2006 11:23 PM

Of course, if you die in a sinful state as a Frizbyterian, you are chased throuought eternity by a giant, drooling golden retriever only to be caught in his gruesomely viscous mouth, only to be brought back to the hand of a beer drinking, shades wearing divinity who tosses you yet again out into the void, to be be chased by the same giant dog.

Posted by: Steve the LLamabutcher at January 30, 2006 12:31 PM