July 30, 2007

That's My Church! Inadvertent Truthiness Division


Yep, pretty much says it all, although I don't believe that is the intent:

This Sunday, being a clown earns you a special blessing at Hickory Neck Episcopal Church in Toano [Virginia].

Big red noses, supersized rubber shoes and frizzy wigs will fill pews for the seventh year at one of the few church services in the country to recognize International Clown Week.

But the "Blessing of the Clowns" service isn't just about thick painted smiles and polka-dotted jumpers the gospel message will also be given by the clowns in the form of a skit.


As a matter of fact, a couple of our older parishioners came up to me yesterday after our service and asked when I was going to be posting again about the impending TEC implosion. I more or less shrugged - it's the slowest time of the year and our parish dreams in a false peace (as I believe Tolkien said of Ithilien before Sauron unleashed his assault on Gondor). As a matter of fact, I was musing at the time on the fact that ushering summer services is always a breeze because the only people who show up are the regulars, and they both are better about picking up their trash from the pews and also know what they're doing when they come up for Communion, so do not need much attendance.

No, the balloon will really go up at the end of September when TEC officially and formally tells the Anglican Communion to go to hell. After that there will be lots of jockeying about who is going to boycott the Lambeth Conference next spring and why and What It Will All Mean to the continued legitimacy of the Communion. Also, I expect we'll see some kind of preliminary ruling on the Diocese of Virginia's continued legal blitz against the secessionist parishes. It'll be tolerable hot fall, I'm thinking.

I expect our parish will wake up to what's going on when it starts trying to hit up the regulars for money just about the same time that the noozpapers start splashing frontpage headlines about the crackup. All I can say is that I'm awfully glad I'm not on the stewardship committee.

Posted by Robert at July 30, 2007 12:35 PM | TrackBack

Actually, September 30th is a deadline, but TEC has already effectively given their answer. There is a HoB meeting just prior to that date, but there is zero chance they will change anything. In fact, I expect TEC to continue on, acting as if nothing has changed, for months. For them to do less would be an admission that there is something outside TEC which might be important. The First Church of Narcissism is not good at that.

Posted by: Tregonsee at July 30, 2007 12:50 PM

I think that the whole crisis points out a central problem in the Anglican church. The church wishes to be Protestant but professes itself to be catholic, small c.

In a sect that does not require apostolic succession; the churches split and go their different ways, and there is no big deal -- you read your Bible, I read mine, we each come to our relationship with Christ, and we find out, at the end of time, who was right on whatever doctrinal issue split us. Happens quite often in the world of Protestantism, and there is no real issue because there isn't the idea of a central authority, other than scripture itself. But for a church that professes sacraments, orders, and apostolic succession, there is a real and true dilemma when the bishops cease to be collegial, or cease to be in communion with one another. For such a church, someone here is a heretic; the question is, who decides? The answer must lie in an Ecumenical council, but who is going to show up at Lambeth? The global south is making noises that it won't be there. Once the bishops start fighting, the church is effectively broken.

Rome, of course, has a solution -- Rome speaks, debate ends. Or, an ecumencial council is called, and we fight over it for the next forty years, and the Popes slowly sort it all out. But the Archbishop of Canterbury does not regard himself as a pope -- I'm not even sure if he'd go so far as to say he sees himself as first among equals. TEC has basically said that it is an independent national church and it will make up its own mind. Good as far as it goes -- but where does it derive its apostolic succession, which it also claims? Central to the concept of apostolic succession is the notion of a deposit of faith, handed down in unbroken form from the apostles. If the descendents of two different apostles profess something diametrically opposed to each other, then a church that believes in apostolic succession will profess that apostolic succession to be broken somewhere along the way. Someone is not legitimate.

Had you asked me in 1900 if the Lutheran churches or the Anglican church possessed apostolic succession, I would have said that while it is not for me to know, not being God, that they certainly appeared to -- the core deposit of the thing called Lutheranism or Anglicanism had remained unchanged for centuries; there were no pronounced schisms, and I could expect consistent answers to questions of faith by bishops of either sect. They seemed to know what they believed. But now it seems everywhere one turns in mainline Protestantism, there is schism. The twentieth and twenty-first centuries have been quite unkind to them.

To me, there seem to be three alternatives.

1. Decide that apostolic succession is not all that important; ultimately, this becomes a kind of Congregationalism -- scripture guides, the congregation decides, and if you disagree, you can start your own church. While I do not personally believe in this, it is a position that makes sense.

2. Decide that apostolic succession is indeed important, and try to figure out, based on doctrine, who possesses it. Tricky, but possible, I suppose. One retreats to the bishop who seems to be preaching Cranmer's faith, and hope his successor keeps to it.

3. Decide that the fragmentation is evidence that the church is broken, and retreat to ones whose apostolic succession is clearer -- the Orthodox church, or Rome.

Any way you slice it, I don't envy you.

Posted by: The Colossus at July 30, 2007 02:37 PM

It is amazing to me how some stories just write themselves, and that at times people can't see they are a characterization of themselves.

Posted by: Zendo Deb at July 31, 2007 11:04 AM

There won't be an implosion. No one desires a real break. They desire their own way and that's a big difference. The Right can claim rightfully too, that most of their way is the way it has been for 450 years execpt if they accept the validity of female ordination. If the Right accepts that, then their theological arguments unravel and ultimately they are sitting on the Left side of the aisle. A vital part of the Left getting their own way is they need the Right to heel to it. This means their way is the right way. If the Right leaves instead of heeling, then in the dark moments of the Left, and believe me they do have dark moments they might think they are wrong about things... And more than anything, they can't have that no matter what...

The fights will continue and people will get exhausted and leave. The Episcopal Church will run out of people before it runs out of money.

Posted by: Mrs. Peperium at July 31, 2007 11:33 AM