June 21, 2006

Palies Driving For The Ditch?

***Bumped and updated***


According to the latest reports from the Episcopal Church's General Convention going on in Columbus, Ohio, it appears the Church is still flirting dangerously with the possibility of getting booted out of the Anglican Communion.

Apparently, this afternoon is supposed to be the last chance for the Convention to pass a moratorium on the ordination of openly homosexual bishops and it hasn't done so yet. Also, the House of Delegates approved a watered-down version of an apology to the Communion for confirming the election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, thereby starting this whole wretched firestorm.

I would expect that, somehow or other, in the end the Church is going to put together some kind of "compromise" package designed to mollify all (or at least most) of the factions involved in the debate and proclaim the Convention a success. But the real test is going to be whether Canterbury feels it to be sufficient enough to champion to the rest of the Communion and whether the rest of the Communion is in any mood to be receptive to it. My sense here is probably not. It's fashionable these days to bemoan the encroachment of American "values" worldwide. But most people doing the moaning are generally referring to the hegemony of McDonald's, Nike and Hollywood. They forget that this kind of thing is applicable in the field of religion as well. And the vast majority of the Anglican Communion, as it currently stands, has no wish whatsoever to condone smarmy Episcopal progressivism.

BTW, this all comes on top of the surprising election over the weekend of Katherine Jefforts Schori to be the new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. She's the first woman to hold that position. Personally, I've got no problem with this. But again, the majority of the Communion does not even have female bishops and will perceive this as another snap in their collective faces by the Episcopalians. Not the wisest of political moves if you're trying to ingratiate yourself.

Many people have asked me (well, one person did anyhoo): "Tom, what will you do if there's a schism in the Church?" Well, I still honestly don't know. One of the reasons I'm an Episcopalian to begin with is my love of tradition. This goes not just for matters of doctrine and form of worship, but for smaller matters as well, as (for example) attachment to my parish. We do things just so and I like that. So the idea of having to start over, or move to something new or radical is, of course, not very appealing.

If the Episcopal Church does, in fact, get tossed out of the Communion, I expect that it, in turn, will rupture, probably on a parish-by-parish level. Those individual churchs that do not wish to leave the Communion will probably band together in a rump loyalist organization, one that I'm sure the Anglicans will aid and embrace. The others will no doubt carry on, possibly allying themselves with similarly-minded congregations in Canada.

I suppose that my choices will depend on what my own church does. The congregation is so evenly split that I couldn't say which way it would lean. On the other hand, our rector is a solid liberal on this matter. In the end, if my church remains loyalist, then fine. If it goes off with the rebels, then I won't go with it. What then? Well, there are really only two options: find another Anglican enclave somewhere in the neighborhood or finally make up my mind to go to Rome.

We shall see.

UPDATE: Dave asks in the comments why I use the term "Palies". Well, that was the nickname on which I was brought up. Here are a few others:

the Frozen Chosen
J.V. Catholics

Feel free to add any more that you might know.

UPDATE DEUX: Center Aisle, the GC opinion journal of the Diocese of Virginia, weighs in with an editorial about the debate being held today. Bottom line? Get over yourselves.

UPDATE TROIS: That crashing sound you just heard may have been the split of the Anglican Communion.

UPDATE QUART: A couple of people have asked about those more conservative Episcopal churches that have sought to establish their own ties directly with other members of the Anglican Communion and outside the formal sway of the ECUSA. They are thinking of the American Anglican Council, a loose confederation that was first founded about ten years ago. A couple of parishes in my area have since joined up, especially in the aftermath of the 2003 General Convention. FWIW, they are dismissed by the more liberal members of my church as a bunch of kooks. If indeed the Episcopal Church is going off on its own tangent, it is likely that the AAC would be one of the rallying points for those parishes that do not wish to go with it.

UPDATE LE FIVE: Well, according to this article, the General Convention came up with some last-minute language asking diocese to "exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration" of candidates for bishop "whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church." The measure, which is non-binding, is a watered down version of an early call to the diocese to "refrain from" taking such action.

At least according to the article, this compromise really does nothing more than antagonize both sides. The Bishop of Dee Cee, for example, is already publicly thumbing his nose at any percieved restrictions in the final language.

I don't pretend to have the least inside information regarding how the Anglican Communion will view the results of General Convention and whether it considers these results to be close enough to the contrition mandated of the ECUSA by the Windsor Report to let it off the hook, but if I had to bet on it, I'd say probably not. There's just too much of the "We don't give a damn what Canterbury says" about the whole thing to give the rest of the Communion much wiggle room to reach a compromise. That assumes, of course, that it will want to do so and that it will not be so affronted as to simply cut off the ECUSA at the knees.

Church bureaucracy being what it is, of course, it will be quite some time before anything actually happens one way or the other.

I am deeply, deeply saddened by this whole wretched business.

Posted by Robert at June 21, 2006 05:09 PM | TrackBack

"Palies"? When I was a kid in California, we always called 'em "Piskies". Well, the world has changed.

Posted by: dave s at June 20, 2006 01:34 PM

Well, "Whiskeypalian" is still in use. That's what the LMC's Missus always calls us.

Posted by: Robbo the LB at June 20, 2006 01:40 PM

I don't know which specific church you go to, but there are a few Episcopalian churches in the area that will remain true, I believe. The Falls Church and Truro being two I can think of off the top of my head. Both have solidly Anglican rectors who are opposed to the rebellion.

Posted by: jen at June 20, 2006 02:10 PM

Wonder how this will affect the relationship between Episcoplians and the Lutherans (ELCA) ...

The ELCA hasn't made up its mind clearly on this either, btw. I believe we need another "study" on the matter.

Posted by: keysunset at June 20, 2006 02:38 PM

Rome awaits.

Posted by: LMC at June 20, 2006 02:43 PM

"One of the reasons I'm an Episcopalian to begin with is my love of tradition. This goes not just for matters of doctrine and form of worship, but for smaller matters as well, as (for example) attachment to my parish. We do things just so and I like that. So the idea of having to start over, or move to something new or radical is, of course, not very appealing."

That is exactly how the Islamic Fundamentalists feel. They don't want to change their traditions - which have served since the 12th century or so. So what that their traditions are hurtful, antiquated, bigoted, etc. (hum the song "Tradition" from "Fiddler on the Roof.")

Most people object to changes in tradition, whether this means abandoning arranged marriages for romance, introducing the fork or outlawing Jim Crow.

Yes, some traditions may be good, but "we've always done it that way" is not a good reason for holding on to them.

Posted by: Zendo Deb at June 20, 2006 06:37 PM

Um, Zendo, on the level of personal experience, I was thinking of tradition in the sense of sticking to the Rite I liturgy and using sherry for communion. And no, contrary to your suggested bullshit relevatism, I would not slit anybody's throat or blow up a building full of innocent office workers to defend it. If you have trouble differentiating between stodgy Old Guard Episcopalians and Islamic Fundamentalists, well, I'm sorry for you.

And although I know it may be difficult to understand, I have never said or done anything to suggest that my opposition to the Church openly embracing homosexuals as its spiritual leaders is the equivalent of saying that I believe homosexuals should be tied to fenceposts and beaten to death. Or even that they should not be welcomed to worship in our Church. Sorry, but it does't quite work that way.

You've been around here awhile. And frankly, I'm a bit surprised at your cartoon character approach to this subject.

Posted by: Robbo the LB at June 20, 2006 11:01 PM

Thank you so much for your commentary on the Conference. I thought to myself, "Where can I go to get commentary on the Conference?" and went directly to Llamabutchers.

I'm sorry to hear about the issues affecting the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

How do you think Canterbury will respond?

Posted by: Muslihoon at June 21, 2006 09:37 AM

Question: A while back (maybe two or three years ago) I remember reading about an American group of conservative Episcopals who were having their ministers ordained by African bishops precisely because the Africans rejected the C of E position on ordaining women and gays, among other things. Was that something less than a schism? Or was it a small foretaste of the more serious schism that seems to be looming in the near future?

Posted by: utron at June 21, 2006 12:47 PM

There is definitely a chunk of the American Episcopal church that is lining up with the African Episcopal church. I think it's the foretaste of the more serious schism that is looming.

Posted by: jen at June 21, 2006 12:52 PM

I never said (or implied) that you would blow things up over tradition.

I never said (or implied) that there is no difference between "Palies" and Muslims.

I only made a comment about tradition.

It seems to have touched a sore spot.

Posted by: Zendo Deb at June 21, 2006 01:49 PM