Tuesday, July 10, 2012

House of Bishops Votes for Liturgical Anarchy

The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (USA) is a ship without a rudder. It is adrift on the sea of spiritual platitudes, and at the mercy of the winds of popular culture. Its leaders on the bridge have no idea where it is headed, because they have lost their compass, too. And as for the crew -- well, they just keep on doing what they have always been doing, which is to keep their heads down, work at their daily tasks, and hope that they eventually will find a safe harbor, despite having no idea how to get there.

They listen to daily prayers which have no root in the liturgy, but which "sound" quasi-spiritual. "May God be with you," intoned their chaplain just before they voted to "approve", 111-41, some kind of liturgy for some kind of mumbo-jumbo to be pronounced over some kind of persons who see themselves in some kind of relationship.

How is the Church to "bless" something which its Book of Common Prayer cannot even define?

The Bishops do not tell us; they just say: "Do whatever your own Bishop may choose to approve in his or her own Diocese. It can be this liturgy, for example; or it can be something someone else has written for this liturgically undefinable occasion, as long as the Bishop says, 'That's fine.' Or it can be no such rites or liturgies whatsoever, if the Bishop says that. Whatever -- just go with it, pewsters."

This is a recipe for liturgical anarchy in the Church, and is symbolic of the systematic damage the Bishops have allowed to eat away at ECUSA's foundations over the years. The pastors have ignored their real flocks while chasing after particular kinds of sheep (who actually are very few in number). In the process, the fences have all fallen down, and now the pastors can scarcely tell who is in their flock, and who isn't, while there are no longer any protections against beasts of prey.

So what, exactly, did the Bishops do today (July 9), besides "pass" a piece of paper labeled "Resolution A049"?

Did they amend the Book of Common Prayer?

They did not.

Did they approve an alternative to the BCP for trial use on a Church-wide basis?

They did not -- the proponents of A049 knew they did not have the votes to do that.

Instead, at the last minute, they carefully reworded their Resolution to take out the word "trial [use]" wherever it appeared, and put the word "provisional" in its place. In this way, the rudderless Bishops apparently believed they were not opening up a route to amending the Book of Common Prayer, by triggering the requirement of the need for a supermajority under Article X of the Constitution (as discussed in this post).

But did they approve, then, an experimental rite for "special occasions" and for use only with the permission of a bishop, as discussed in this earlier post?

No, they did not manage to do that, either. And why not? Take a look again at the language of Art. X, as quoted in the post just linked. Under it, Bishops may
take such order as may be permitted by the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer or by the Canons of the General Convention for the use of special forms of worship.
The BCP Rubrics are of no comfort to them, because they provide that the only union that can be blessed is that between a man and a woman. (See page 433.) Nor are the Canons any help, because no Canon authorizes General Convention or any Bishop to proceed contrary to the BCP in devising rites for "special occasions."

So what, in the final analysis, did the Bishops in their cluelessness about Constitutional limitations and requirements do?

Simple: as I say, they voted for liturgical anarchy (H/T for that term: Canon Harmon). It's every man for himself. (Note to feminists and LGBTQIs: that's "man" in the generic sense. Try rewriting that sentence to include all your "categories." See what I mean? And some of you refuse even to be described by pronouns, so the task is impossible without using a generic noun for the lot of you.)

From now on, when it comes to the services you can hear in an Episcopal church, throw out the Book of Common Prayer: its title is now an oxymoron, because there is no more "common prayer." Come this Advent, we start blessing "same-sex unions"; come next Lent, it will be rites for departed pets and perhaps even human-animal "unions"; and come next summer, who-knows-what will be in vogue.

No one can say. And that's my point.

Ask your Bishop (good luck with that). Everything is open to experiment, to "provisional" use, as the whim strikes your Bishop.

In just a little over three short years, the Episcopal Church (USA) has gone from refusing to confirm the election of a Bishop who dared to tinker with the Sunday liturgy, to telling all the Bishops: "It's your show -- whatever tickles your fancy, folks."

And now to the important question: Why have our Bishops, the "keepers of our faith," voted for liturgical anarchy?

Aye, and there's the rub. Consider the following simple exercise in mathematics. (Or skip to the bottom line, if you don't like math.)

As of 2011, there are 311.6 million people in the United States (Google it). Of these, 75.2%, or just about 234.3 million, are 18 years or older.

The latest and best estimate, based on five separate studies, is that there are just about 4 million adults in the United States who identify themselves as gay or lesbian. That number represents 1.7% of the adult population of 234.3 million.

According to the latest ECUSA statistics (2010), an average of just 657,831 attended Episcopal churches on Sunday. (That number will be some 40-50,000 less by now, but use it anyway, even though it also includes young persons under 18.)

If the percentage of gays and lesbians going to ECUSA Sunday services matches their percentage in the adult U.S. population, then there would be about 11,230 of them in church on Sundays. Of that number, available statistics show that approximately half are in some kind of relationship that has existed for more than four years, but only fifteen percent have been in relationships of twelve years or longer.

Say, of those longer-term, committed relationships, that every one of them who were both church-going Episcopalians wanted to have their unions "blessed" in a church ceremony. That's 1,684 committed Episcopalians, or 842 potential pairs that are candidates for Episcopal blessings.

Eight hundred and forty-two couples. And for them, our Bishops sacrificed our Church's traditions, its Book of Common Prayer, and its very integrity.

Maybe they did it for non-Episcopalian gay couples, too, in the forlorn belief that it would add to the number of Episcopalians. So call it 2,000 -- call it 3,000; it does not matter. The number is minuscule, any way you slice it. The Church is losing ten times that many members every year.

And for them, our Bishops decided to lead our Church over the cliff, and let the rest of us be hanged.

Now do you see what they did today?


  1. "...our Church ..." I am a cradle Episcopalian, but after 58 years I departed in 2006. Despite being in a vibrant, growing ACNA parish, somehow it is still our/my church in my heart. This is hard to properly characterize as simple apostacy. The only adequate word is insanity. Of course, there is a lot of that going around in secular politics as well.

    As always, thanks for the careful, thoughtful analysis.

  2. I understand Tregonsee, I am still in TEC but I still like my mother's statement best. I did not leave the church. The church left me. Yep exactly. TEC has left the faith once delivered to it for the new social justice gospel. It is working so well that people have left and will continue to leave.

    Actually, I do know of a long term committed homosexual couple (one of this 824 couples). In fact they got married in Canada and guess what they no longer attend church. They used to be members of an Episcopal parish. Say what???? Why not? If TEC is so inclusive why did they not stay??? Good question.

    SC BluCat Lady

  3. And more liturgical anarchy to follow. The new revised text of the resolution on CWOB (Communion without Baptism) seems set to SAIL through both houses because it now invokes the magic phrases "pastoral sensitivity" in "various local contexts"

    So under the guise of pastoral sensitivity the uncanonical and unTraditional and unBiblical and unreasonable practice of CWOB becomes perfectly legitimate.

    I trace this theological anarchy directly back to Resolution D039 in Denver 2000. That's when the official theology and polity became “it’s ok to disagree… we have certain Biblical teaching and polity but rather than punish, we will actively support those who contradict our teaching and law.” [unless you’re a reasserter and theologically conservative, that is…]

    See my further comments at T19:

    -Karen B.

  4. Seems strange folks who cite regularly cite the Scriptures to bash TEC have forgotten Our Lord's parable of the shepherd who left the 99 sheep to rescue the one lost sheep...

  5. This is going to create more havoc that those fools in purple think. When I hear all the platitudinous statements coming from bishops (some of whom are still toting the line about more alternative lifestyle people coming to church, etc.), I often wonder where their minds and focus have been these past 10 years.

    I was surprised to hear some 'conservative' bishops say something to the effect of, 'well, I'm going to vote no, but I like how all the revisionists on the committee added all the amendments we wanted,' etc. It almost sounds like they still think that they can go to their dioceses, tell their priests 'don't do that,' and that will be the end of it.

    If the 1980s and 1990s have taught was anything, it is that we can pass all the amendments or cannons we want to try to stop the revisionist wreckingball, but they won't choose to stop it and learn to 'love God's commandments' as Psalm 119 tells us: we obey Christ; they obey the vague 'voice of history' echoing in their own nebulous heads.

    There was already gasoline all over the floor, and these foolish people just lit a match. Things are really about to get crazy now.

    I know what is going to happen in my own little region, and I think it will be a microcosm for the Episcopal church at large. This will take some time, but here goes:

  6. I live in a small Mississippi town (about 7000 people) about 15 miles from the Tennessee border. Every Sunday (except when we are out of town) I drive my family across the stateline where we attend a traditional ECUSA parish...it's a small church building (seating about 75) but has a large congregation...3 Sunday services; it has a nursery, children's program, music, weekly services, etc. The church has two full-time priests, both very orthodox, mission conscious, and very good with the people.

    However, there is an ECUSA parish that is no more than 3 blocks from the spot where I am typing now. I couldn't walk to the end of my block and hit it with a stone, but maybe Brett Farve could. This church could easily seat 100 people (more than our church across stateline can), and before 2003 it must have had at least 60 people attending.

    What happened is that after Gene Robinson's installation as bishop, several people approached the rector (who was then, I suppose, just a closet revisionist) and said they wanted to start a discussion about leaving ECUSA. By his own admission, the rector berated them both privately and from the pulpit. In the end, what has happened is that a steady stream of Episcopalians in my town have crossed the stateline...never to return. I'm not sure yet how many of his former flock now attend the same church as us either part-time or every Sunday (it's at least 15-20), but he has maybe 25-30 reliable members remaining in his own parish (not counting Mother's Day or Easter). I guess the rest of his former parishioners have either died, moved, or joined other mainline protestant churches in town.

    (A little aside: We are no longer on speaking terms since we left and stated clearly WHY we were leaving, but when we were speaking, He told me he didn't understand why 'one or two families' were crossing the stateline...'I mean, they're just wasting gas to go to another TEC church.' He obviously thinks that 'Episcopal' churches are the all same, and, like a typical liberal, all concepts of theology or marketplace are quite opaque to him.)

    Anyway, the rector of the local church has become more open about his heretical positions lately. When I attended his church back in 2010, I urged him to start a blog (partly to see how far he'd go to hang himself), and about 6 months after we crossed stateline...he did just that.

    I don't read his blog, but my wife does (she still reads weird stuff for shock value, which I don't because as someone working on his humanities dissertation, I have enough in that department). Some of his recent posts (aside from all things pro-Obama and Democrat Party) are (1) his support for Obama's 'fully evolved' view on marriage and (2) a link to an inanely-argued piece from the Huffington Post about how 'traditional marriage is not biblical.'

  7. Needless to say, there are not many pastors (even Episcopal ones) in Mississippi who read and circulate articles from HuffPo. I read the whole thing, and like most tidbits from Christian-Left apologetics, it skillfully maneuvers around the two-dozen bulky elephants in the tiny living room and seeks to restitch Christian history so that it seems to support the logos of the writer's argument.

    While the local rector is far from being the most intelligent man I have ever met (even by local standards), and while I have often wondered how he managed to pass his Old and New Testament courses in seminary, and while he has a drinking problem and a lot of hubris (a lot of...'I'm the only non-idiot in his redneck town' attitude, etc.), HE IS HARDLY A DUNCE. He knows that articles such as the link he posted aren't going to fool anyone who has a solid understanding of the Bible, Christian theology, or anyone who has 'known God' (as J.I. Packer put it).

    So why does he do it?

    Simple: His true religion is not Episcopalianism but 'the cult of progress.' He is willing to use parts of Christianity to 'push history forward,' but he has little use for the rest. Like a typical liberal, he believes 'the youth' will carry forth his aspirations (even though young people consistently become more conservative, not more liberal, as they get older and come into their responsibilities...that is a tenet of his faith).

    The local church does almost no missions now, and the local rector here does only two community outreach activities: (1) he tutors kids at the local library; (2) he does a Spanish Eucharist at the University town about 30 miles south of here.

    Now that sounds wonderful, except (1) most of the kids he 'tutors' are already honor roll students anyway because their parents make it clear to them that school is important; (2) from what I hear, almost no Spanish-speaking people go to the Spanish Eucharist...it is all students and graduate students who either (a) want to studiously improve their foreign language skills or (b) want immersion to help them pass a FL requirement (what Spanish must sound like coming out of his fussy Tennessee drawl...?).

    Now, how will these new GC developments cause problems for my little region here? Here is how:

  8. I expect Duncan Gray to refuse to allow priests to try this provisional rite in the Diocese of Mississippi. I also fully expect the local rector to refuse to abide by what the diocese says for two reasons: (1) revisionists have proven that they only tout what the bishop says when it fits their 'myth of progress' ideology, and they will flaunt their bishop's authority when it does not; (2) he will justify his own breach of provincial authority by pointing to the GC piece of paper (the 'higher' law), reading into it whatever he wants.

    Now, there is not a big demand here for same-sex blessings. However, since I don't expect the University-town church to be receptive to SSB, I can see the local rector bringing gay and lesbian people (there is always a higher concentration of them in a University area, even in the South) to our town for a ceremony...all while acting like he is Duncan Gray's best friend.

    The local vestry is pretty much controlled by one family (two twin sisters, their husbands, their mom, their in-laws, etc.) so I don't see them trying to stop their rector.

    What will happen, is that non-Episcopal members of our community will be upset and angered by this development...that our town is being used to anchor sin and to encourage people to let sin master them. This will not go down well at all. I am very concerned, though I don't know what else I can do besides what I have already done. (Yes, I've also written to Duncan Gray...no response.)

    Also, I can see this GC piece of paper leading the local rector to act more boldly: I can see lots of anonymous complaints being issued against my parish across the stateline from him; worst still, he might begin to cross the stateline (where he has no ecclesiastical authority) and start his own fact-finding missions; he will write to our rector and assistant rector asking to know how we handle same-sex people who want a ceremony, etc. I can see him doing marriages across the stateline, even writing to our rector's bishop that he be allowed to use our sanctuary and facilities to perform SSBs, etc.

  9. Does anyone here think Duncan Gray will order the local rector to stop? Anyone think Gray will depose him? Does anyone think the Bishop of West Tennessee (I don't know his name) will order Gray to get control of his priest and to keep him out of his ecclesiastical jurisdiction?

    These bishops keep thinking that THIS RESOLUTION will be the one to END ALL THE recent and continual UNPLEASANTNESS: If you keep feeding the wolves, they don't die.

    There is an old saying: "The appetite grows with the eating."

  10. They did all this and more and only spent $15 million doing it. Such a deal!

    David Katzakian

  11. SFiTC

    Your argument (like most of your other arguments) is a strawman because no one here is saying that we as Christians should not try to minister to all sinners so that they too could come to know Christ. That is part of the Great Commission and the Joy of our faith.

    Again and again, this is less about those who struggle with the sin of homosexuality, and more about the 815 ruling class and their unholy alliance with the professional activists.

    If you are going to be a part of this conversation, please master this understanding of my position. Otherwise, you are coming close to trolling.

  12. All very interesting, but the question is now "How do we stop this?"

    The answer is (and always has been) money. It is now time to turn off the spigot. Conservative Anglicans should boldly remain in the pews while refusing to feed the dragon. I'm confident that bishops will reconsider their utopian insanity when they are faced painful financial realities.

    This must be a spirited grassroots movement. We'd be willing to hurt someone we love in order to help them. Well, I love the Episcopal Church. and the time for very tough love has arrived.

    The buck stops here.

  13. Rather than waste your time, Reformed, I shall withdraw as we simply agree to disagree on various matters.

    As for the 815 ruling class and professional activists, it seems your secular political leanings may be bleeding over into your ecclesial polity perspectives. They are not one in the same in all instances. Some of the most inlcusive Episcopalians I know are conservative Republicans!

    I would suggest, Sir, that perhaps your Reformed theology makes you more comfortable with a Southern Baptist or Missouri Synod Lutheran theology than what takes place in TEC.

    In any case, I wish for you and yours God's continued blessings!

  14. SFiTC

    I love it how you tell me in effect that "God loves us all no matter our views" while at time telling me to get out of 'your' church. (I've heard it before, and lots of orthodox Episcopalians have been told the same by those who think they are not accountable to the churchgoers who pay their salaries.) Did you go to an Episcopal seminary? Bet it was a crummy one, and that is saying something.

    My title, Reformed Reinhardt, is more of a reference to one of the most interesting characters from one of my favorite movies as a child, The Black Hole (Disney, 1979). I used to be a liberal progressive atheist who believed the means justified the ends, like Reinhardt (and probably like you)...but God had pity on me and humbled me (though I did not appreciate it at the time), so I am 'Reinhardt Reformed.' My theology is more complex: like Bishop Ackerman taught me, I am largely 'Catholic in the sacraments, evangelical in the scriptures, and charismatic with people.'

    But no, calling myself 'Reformed' doesn't mean I worship at the shrine of radical Calvinism. But you can believe what you want.

    I hate to break it to you, but there is no theological basis for our current cultural doctrine of 'inclusion' in Christianity. God is the God of all people, and He turns away no one: but He chose to die on the cross for our sins instead of saying that our sins were okay. Why is that? Could it be that there is a fundamental problem with making Christianity compatible with an 'inclusion' that excuses sin and makes it a part of our own identities? Surely not!

    What about my sins? Years ago I told God that vanity and pride was just part of my biological makeup and that it was unfair of Him to expect me to humble myself as if I were a normal person. "You should be more inclusive, God!"

    That argument didn't seem to work for me, and I had to learn a lot of humility.

    Maybe you should start.

  15. PS, SFiTC

    If you believe that the current obsession of The Church in voting on all of these political resolutions (e.g., voting on a meaningless resolution for DC statehood rather than concerning ourselves with reaching the people of the DC urban areas with prayer, missions, aid, and help) is the real duty of Christ's Church (rather than the consequences of allowing political aggitators to have influence in our Church), then I don't know what to say. You need help, and I pray for you to find the true purpose of The Church here on earth: God has a much higher design for it than the farce that calls itself the GC.

    Instead of me leaving a faith that I belong to (because I can swear by the Outline of Faith in BCP...I had to learn it in my old diocese), I have a better solution for us both: Me, the Curmudgeon, and the rest of the people who follow this blog will stay the course while 815 and its most loyal dioceses collapses from lack of money. Then they will lose their influence and their ability to intimidate churches, and we will see a grand reorganization of all Anglican chuches (ECUSA, ACNA, etc.) that is carried out not by 815 cronies, but by the faithful.

    You, on the other hand, will be stuck somewhere in a vacuous and decaying building with 5 other aging people arguing over the last dime you have in your church account.

    God be with You, and May he teach You as he once took the trouble to teach me.

  16. No, friend in Christ, I presume. Mr. Small Farmer in City, we always assumed that if it were good to change, there would be room for those who wished for things to remain the same. But there is not. In spite of your apparent Christian patience, your cetainty that your path is the best one leading to Damascus, and that ours is the hypocritical one wears thin. It is your group that says that we must comply or get out. It is your group that says that not only must we get out, but we must leave everything down to the alms basins when we leave. There is no room for us troglodytes in that space normally reserved for your soul. There is only room for people who are intent upon establishing their notion of heaven should be...and to establish it on this Planet..and that they shall be the New Pharisees in charge.

    You are a wise master of the parable and the deeper meanings hidden in the messages of the Nazarene. You see social justice. I see natural law and benevolent traditions and working to glorify the Nazarene's Father in Heaven.
    You point at us and suggest that we should not throw stones, when we have thrown none..because the Nazarene said that "...he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." But we remind that when the crowd after having been chastised, dispersed, first the eldest and then the rest. He turned to the adultress and asked,"Woman, where are those, thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?"
    She said,"No man, Lord"
    And Jesus said unto her "Neither do I condemn thee: Go, and sin no more."

    We understand sin, and we understand no throwing stones. And we know the sanctuary is full of sinners. We do not need to change the Church, we need to change ourselve by our own efforts.

    Thanks for the time. Reformed Reinhart...and all who laboured over your words to-day, each letter and word was read, and found rewarding.
    El Gringo Viejo

  17. I thank the Reformed Reinhart and the Old Gringo for their words. None are without sin, true! Does one focus on sins of others to the exclusion of the good being done? As for natural law - we all are under the laws of God, but if God chooses to blot out our iniquities, to ignore them...?

    I concur that we need to change ourselves - to seek out our own salvation with fear and trembling as it is said. But no one is asked to leave the table or to give up their views...simply live into the acknolwedgment that no one is without sin but we all are blessed by God and the blessings of man are a sign of folks coming to grips with that...

  18. Good words, SFiTC.

    What does that have to do with most of our criticism of human beings calling something 'sweetness and light' (in this case, same-sex blessings...pornography and drugs will be next) that Our Lord did not? Where is the authority to call something 'good' and 'holy' that is called 'unholy' by God as revealed to us through Scripture? Do human beings alone have this power?

    On another note, none of us should underestimate the power of prayer and petitioning Christ when it comes to our own sins and unholiness. In these battles we are now fighting (which were not of my choosing...nor anyone else's here probably...only a few people at 815 are really enjoying this conflict), it is easy to forget prayer and its power. I can testify to the power of prayer in my own life: there have been so many times when I have tried to be a better man, to live a more godly life, but I kept failing because (I had to concede) my will and flesh were compromised...deep down, I didn't want to do good.

    I prayed to God, asking him to change my heart and change my desires. I'm not saying that I am where God wants me to be, but because of His help, I've moved further than I ever thought possible.

    I guess for me what I'm fighting for is not so much the church as a piece of local property, or over a what a bunch of doofuses in purple say on a piece of paper...I'm fighting for an idea of what the Church should be, and it is an idea that Anglicanism has played a big part of crafting: that God sees us not as sin and history try to define us, but by who we could be if we could only accept His Help in the form of His Son and His Cross.

    Most bishops I know weren't chosen because they shared a special relationship with Christ: it was more pageantry and politics than prayer or discernment. Fine. But I got into this fight because I feared that a Church that sought to diminish those qualities that I mentioned above would turn us into a sham Church that was unworthy of our name or long history. That's why I am in this fight.