Friday, August 17, 2012

Church of England's Finest Hour -- But Not ECUSA's

The present reputation of ECUSA among conservatives is, shall we say, less than stellar:
The U.S. based Episcopal Church's recognition of same sex unions last month mostly excited a big yawn. More interesting is the resistance of its mother body, the Church of England, to Prime Minister David Cameron's attempt to install same sex marriage in Britain. The latter's opposition is more significant because it remains its nation's established church and still wields political and constitutional powers. 
Episcopalians have often behaved as the established church in America. It once was the church of America's elites. But now below 2 million members and spiraling, the Episcopal Church no longer excites more than knowing smiles. Its affirmation of transgender clergy last month, at its General Convention, fulfilled stereotypes about modern, liberal Episcopalians.
So begins an article ("This Could Be Its Finest Hour") by IRD's Mark Tooley, published at the site of the American Spectator. The presenting issue, as always in recent times, is the destruction of an age-old institution to accommodate the proclivities of a tiny segment (comprising less than 2%) of the population: same-sex marriages, or the Oxymoron That Makes a Moron out of Heterodoxy. Only for the Church of England, there is a bit more at stake:
The Church of England similarly often has a penchant for striving to be trendier than thou. But even as it presides over an increasingly secular Britain, it cherishes its role as senior church in the global, 80 million member Anglican Communion. And its few pockets of spiritual vitality in Britain often tend to be evangelical, often immigrant. Its second senior most prelate, the Archbishop of York, is himself a Ugandan and potentially the next Archbishop of Canterbury. 
It's also true than in a secularizing country, the Church of England (unlike U.S. Episcopalians, who mostly just resent more numerous evangelicals) appreciates the threat to religious liberty under a regime of imposed same sex marriage. How would the established church disallow what the civil law requires? The church may have to disestablish, especially if it desires any continued leadership over global Anglicans.
And so the Church and its leaders, perhaps realizing at last that this was their last bit of ground on which to remain the established Church of England, stepped up to defend the institution of marriage:
British media quoted church officials dismissing government plans as "'half-baked,' ‘very shallow,' ‘superficial' and ‘completely irrational.'" Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Archbishop of York John Sentamu only slightly more diplomatically lamented that government proposals "have not been thought through and are not legally sound." 
The church's official response rejected the government's push with vigorous, point-by-point rebuttals. One organizer of that response was Bishop of Leicester Tim Steve, who declared on his own: "Marriage is not the property of the Church any more than it is the property of the Government. It is about a mutually faithful physical relationship between a man and a woman." He warned, despite government claims of protection for churches, "If you do what the Government say they are going to do, you can no longer define marriage in that way. It becomes hollowed out, and about a relationship between two people, to be defined on a case-by-case basis." Imposed same sex marriage would precipitate the "gradual unravelling of the Church of England, which is a very high cost for the stability of society."
For that defense, of course, the leaders received only ridicule from the liberals, who already want only to mold the Church into their own image (meaning an image of man's devising). One notorious cleric (who might have been -- and could still become, if the liberals get their way -- a Bishop) called the defense "institutionally expedient, but morally contemptible." And just whose morals would those be, Dr. Johns? Perhaps it would be well to invoke here the words of another Englishman, written in 1905 (try to guess the author before you finish the excerpt):
The vice of the modern notion of mental progress is that it is always something concerned with the breaking of bonds, the effacing of boundaries, the casting away of dogmas. But if there be such a thing as mental growth, it must mean the growth into more and more definite convictions, into more and more dogmas. The human brain is a machine for coming to conclusions; if it cannot come to conclusions it is rusty. When we hear of a man too clever to believe, we are hearing of something having almost the character of a contradiction in terms. It is like hearing of a nail that was too good to hold down a carpet; or a bolt that was too strong to keep a door shut. 
Man can hardly be defined, after the fashion of Carlyle, as an animal who makes tools; ants and beavers and many other animals make tools, in the sense that they make an apparatus. Man can be defined as an animal that makes dogmas. As he piles doctrine on doctrine and conclusion on conclusion in the formation of some tremendous scheme of philosophy and religion, he is, in the only legitimate sense of which the expression is capable, becoming more and more human. When he drops one doctrine after another in a refined scepticism, when he declines to tie himself to a system, when he says that he has outgrown definitions, when he says that he disbelieves in finality, when, in his own imagination, he sits as God, holding no form of creed but contemplating all, then he is by that very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded.
Indeed. The "refined scepticism" that leads modern clergy to scrap the institution of marriage for a farthing's worth of inclusivity is touted as "progress," but as G.K. Chesterton admirably pointed out (the excerpt is from Chapter XX of his book Heretics), such progress is in the direction of the animals, and not toward our potential as the only creature made in God's image.

Make no mistake -- the fight to preserve traditional marriage from obliteration by secularized liberals is a fight for our humanity. If the Church of England stakes its establishment in defense of marriage, it is acting like a true church. ECUSA, alas, has long since gone to the turnips.


  1. I loved the last quote from Chesterton. Thank you!

  2. In response to Chesterton: The first Christians, on whose shoulders we stand, were the contemporaries of an earthly Jesus who found his words resonating in the depths of their hearts and minds, who felt his teachings were addressed to them as individuals, revealing how they should be living their lives, and who chose on that basis to follow him. They did so without benefit of Christian tradition, historical perspective, church hierarchy, or creedal statements. Since that early first century there have always been those who have chosen the dogmas, the creeds and the traditions of Christendom as a bulwark against facing the call of Jesus to them personally. They are aided immensely by the layering of dogma upon dogma. The man now considered a Christian is a person who has become totally insulated by the church from having to face the import of Jesus' direct words.

    Alvah Whealton

  3. Here's a quote from a talk that C.S. Lewis gave to Church of England clergy in 1945: "It is not, of course, for me to define to you what Anglican Christianity is--I am your pupil, not your teacher. But I insist that wherever you draw the lines, bounding lines must exist, beyond which your doctrine will cease to be Anglican or to be Christian: and I suggest also that the lines come a great deal sooner than many modern priests think. I think it is your duty to fix the lines clearly in your own minds: and if you wish to go beyond them you must change your profession."

    Read more here:

    Another thoughtful article! Thanks, Allan.

  4. Alvah Whealton, I think you do Chesterton an injustice. His Christianity was dearly purchased, after long and careful soul-searching, and he felt immensely the power of Christ in bringing about his conversion. On the day of his being received into the Catholic Church, he wrote a sonnet with these lines:

    . . . The sages have a hundred maps to give
    That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
    They rattle reason out through many a sieve
    That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
    And all these things are less than dust to me
    Because my name is Lazarus, and I live.

  5. The earliest dogma, which came from Christ's words, was "Go and sin no more".

    I wrote a book, and when I reached the end, though I could still recite the creeds with confidence, they had different meaning to me. Yet, in all I wrote, I never ever tried to condone sin through my apologetics. My words never took me out of the creeds and what they mean, though they took me outside the box of Christianly understood and practiced thought. When I would speak of the new findings, I was met with blank stares and then the usual spouted regurgitation of thought espoused by those that desire to look no deeper than what they have heard and been taught. But, Christ's words of "go and sin no more" were not a part of what I was writing about. That is the difference. Turnip thought desires the inclusion of things Christ never said or meant.

    If I had tried to change the thought of those around me to something that was not of Christianity except by far stridings of the mind into oblivious nihilism, then the worst thing I could have done was to try to change the church to my conformities. I should have immediately removed myself from trying to become a minister of that church, which I did. It was because and out of honor of the dogmas that church held dear. But that is not the liberal way, is it? Democratically motivated individuals say the combined voices of a majority must change God's mind on the matter. Therefore, unnatural sin is not asked to change. The people must change and alter their true knowledge of sin to a new understanding that leads to a well manured garden capable of growing the best turnips for our consumption. Then we become what we eat.

  6. Mr. Wheaton,
    You stated, " were the contemporaries of an earthly Jesus who found his words resonating in the depths of their hearts and minds, who felt his teachings were addressed to them as individuals, revealing how they should be living their lives, and who chose on that basis to follow him. "

    His words, His teachings, resonating, revealing.

    Are now the Church's teaching, for we are His Body. Dogma. Realized truths that resonate with those that come and hear. One can interject into each usage of "his" that you used the reality and word of "Church". A person's insulation is only as good as one's idea of who one is and to Whom they belong. Christians belong. They belong to Christ. Hence, one formulates his Masters reality as closely as one can. And that Master becomes Brother when the reality is right.

    "Blessed are those that will know me through my words, and didn't have to actually gaze upon my humanity to actually get the jist who My Daddy is." (paraphrasing)

    That takes dogma and spiritual reality.

    "Who is my family? Those that do the will as I do the will of my Father...them's my bubbahs and sistas.". (paraphrasing again.).

    We don’t know His will without a dab of dogma and a dab of spirituality. The two together make an amazing couple. Dogma = man. Spirituality = woman. The two together make an amazing couple. They sort of fit together being all different and everything as they are.

  7. Mr. Whealton, sorry about the spelling on the first one. Compooter dun it.

    Think of it like this..

    A candle.

    A candle with a glass vase around it.

    A candle with a glass vase and a top to go over it.

    Complete spirituality is merely a candle burning, yet withouth the protection of the vase.

    Complete dogma is the candle, vase ant top cover. That equation gives so much that the candle lacks the most important reality to it's existence...oxygen.

    The perfect set-up is the candle with the top. That allows the candle to burn while protecting it from the wind. That is spirituality AND dogma combined. One needs the other. We must never negate that which would keep us alive.

  8. ASH:

    I wanted your opinion on one possible road for not only the Diocese of SC, but for all orthodox Episcopal churches.

    Why not just adopt the Anglican Covenant? If the General Convention is too craven to accept it, then forget them: why don't we take it up and put it to good use?

    From one point of view, this seems to be a more cautious action: (1) Jefferts-Schori would have a harder time--using her executive powers or her legal toadies--saying that congregations and dioceses had 'left the Episcopal Church' if they voted on the Covenant...something even ECUSA at least went through the motions to consider; (2) this would give orthodox parishes like mine a way to distinguish ourselves from the rest of the rotten barrel.

    For example, the problem in the Episcopal church right now is that churches have a hard time (and are often discouraged from) distinguishing themselves from the rest of the silliness. If the Anglican Covenant becomes the tool of conservative union, then (let me use fake names in case the 815 'thought police' is tuning in) then the orthodox St. Michael's Episcopal Church can distinguish themselves from St. Ichabod Episcopal Church in the next town (where they read Buddhist chants and preach about global warming, etc.) by adding St. Michael's Episcopal Church-AC. St. Michael's has not left, is still a part of TEC, but they have the Covenant distinction.

    This is within ECUSA, but it is an intra-communion within the denomination. I've suggested this in a few blog posts, but no one has responded to it as a possible instrument of American orthodox union.

    While part of me would love for all of us to head to ACNA and tell 815 and crowd where to kiss it, it seems like AC would be an acceptable route for me.

    Then maybe in 10-20 years after ECUSA has gone bankrupt and the IRS has seized all of 815's financial assets to pay their creditors, and there is no more General Convention, Executive Council, and the office of Presiding Bishop has been reduced to an honorary office for the oldest revisionist geezer still hanging around, then I could see a sort of Presbyterian-like re-fusion between the AC-Episcopal groups and ACNA into a new Anglican province for the United States.

    Could the Anglican Covenant be used this way? Do you think it is even a possibility that orthodox leaders like Bishop Lawrence are even contemplating?

  9. It's a thoroughly interesting idea, Reformed Reinhardt. There is no downside to such a strategy, that I can see. And the Archbishop of Canterbury made clear a number of years ago that dioceses were the basic unit of the Anglican Communion.

    That being said, the final version of the Covenant as passed by the ACC and put out to the Communion makes no provision for its signing by any bodies but those on the ACC's membership schedule -- and those are national churches, not dioceses. So the adoption of the Covenant by a Diocese would be a symbolic move -- perhaps of great spiritual effect, but of no canonical effect.

  10. ASH:

    Right, there is no canonical least not right away. (ACC might decide to amend it once individual dioceses and churches begin to sign on...they should have known that demanding entire provinces--especially Western ones--was a waste of time.)

    But it would be a powerful statement, and it is a way for St. Michael's orthodox church to distinguish itself from St. Michael's Wicca church.

    I was also hoping that AC could be a way for us to organize in the open so that orthodox Episcopalians don't have to wander for 2 years in the wilderness like my wife and I had to.

    For example, I have friends in the Diocese of Mississippi who could tell me all sorts of orthodox congregations to join, but they were all (at least) 40 miles or more away. None of them know (now they do!) about our church across the state line, which is only 20 miles away because it is in the Diocese of West Tennessee, and none of my Mississippi friends knew about it.

    You have to rely on word of mouth, etc., or websites that are incomplete, inaccurate, not up to date, or the information is flat out wrong, etc.

    I hope that the Covenant churches and dioceses, if they choose to do this, create a website with a complete list of Anglican churches--TEC, ACNA, etc.--that are members of the Covenant and have sworn to abide by it.

    Also, the Covenant churches could help us to begin setting up an alternative Anglican structure that could fill the void once the TEC national group (and their to-the-death zealots over at the Episcopal Forum or their hapless diocese governing bodies who have joined 815 at the hip, etc.) collapses into bankruptcy and scandal.