Two weeks from today, in the enormous cavern of the Long Beach Arena, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America will very publicly and in all sincerity shoot itself in the foot.
Oh, they are making it out to be a very big celebration -- with a seating capacity of 6,700 persons for the liturgy. (They must be renting only half of the Arena.) But the greater the pomp and hype, the more public will be the wound.
Consider how far the Episcopal Church (USA) has gone downhill in the Anglican Communion (at least, what is left of that once congenial fellowship). And then consider how its consecration of a partnered lesbian to be one of its bishops will advance its prospects within the Anglican Communion still further -- to say nothing of its prospects within the Church catholic. The disconnect, as they say, is not only enormous; it is tragic.
The new bishop will not be welcome at any of the councils of the Anglican Communion. Like the Presiding Bishop who leads her consecration, she will be able to celebrate Holy Communion in only a handful of Anglican provinces.
Under that same Presiding Bishop, the Episcopal Church (USA) claimed to "depose" Bishop Robert W. Duncan, then of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and now Archbishop of the Anglican Church of North America. The "deposition" was recognized only by the same handful of provinces which are beholden to ECUSA for financial and other support. Unlike Bishop V. Gene Robinson, he has since been welcomed at Lambeth Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury, he has been invited (with ++Cantuar's blessing) by the Bishop of Winchester to preach and celebrate in his Diocese, and last week he led the celebration of the Eucharist at the gathering of the Global South provinces in Singapore.
It would seem that to be "deposed" by ECUSA's House of Bishops is the ideal way to earn your standing among the other bishops of the Anglican Communion. To be consecrated by ECUSA's bishops, however, seems to be a certain way to cause other Anglican bishops to look further into your qualifications.
When ECUSA consecrated V. Gene Robinson, it thought it was firing a shot that would carry the rest of the Communion with it, and that it was a big step for "social justice" and "inclusiveness." But it has proved just the opposite: divisive, rather than inclusive. The public celebration of same-sex relations, which it exalted in the way only a church can, has also been the source of still greater injustices to Christians in the Sudan, in Nigeria, and in Uganda -- because they rarely can succeed in distinguishing themselves from ECUSA's actions in the eyes of their Muslim rivals.
ECUSA has had plenty of time to see its mistake. But it is too selfish, or too bound up in its own self-centered nature, to see the effect its actions have had on others. So it will proceed to shoot itself in the foot once again -- no doubt this time with yet more colorful vestments, destined to set a new standard for Christopher Johnson's collection.
The image of a ham-fisted gunslinger, unable to keep from pulling the trigger before he can draw his Colt .45 from its holster, fits ECUSA to a T. It has recklessly ridden into the middle of the Anglican Communion and proceeded to shoot the place up, just as in a Hollywood grade-B Western. While everyone else ducks and runs for cover, ECUSA whoops it up, gets drunk on its cheap imitations of Scripture, and tosses its collective miter in the air to celebrate its raucous belligerence. It is still big and powerful enough to do considerable damage, but it is the rest of the Communion who will have to pick up the pieces.
Meanwhile, the local sheriff hides away in his home, and announces that just as soon as the bully has left, he will sponsor another round of indaba at the local saloon. Talk will go on, accomplishing nothing, but what the sheriff has not noticed is that there are fewer and fewer people at the table. The town is quietly emptying itself, as the ordinary folk have figured out that they can do better under their own devices elsewhere.
Oh, the sheriff will remain the sheriff, and will still sport his badge. But the disrespect shown to that badge by bullies like ECUSA has a way of undermining the respect that others show for it as well. A sheriff who will not stand up to bullies cannot long command the loyalty of those who look to him to uphold law and order.
So step right up, folks, and enjoy the show! Long Beach will be the Wild, Wild West on Saturday, May 15. And you will get to watch as a clumsy gunslinger, drunk with his own self-importance, puts another bullet right through his own foot.