Wednesday, December 17, 2003


I get the NY Times delivered to my e-mail everyday. Usually I just take a glance at the headlines and will occassionally delve deeper. Today they had an article on the Episcopal Church and the current controversy. I don't know about you, but it didn't make me feel warm and fuzzy all over. A few thoughts and questions came to mind (not necessarily in this order):

1. Is this the 21st Century ECUSA version of the Donatist Controversy? That controversy was based on the refusal of some Christians to accept the validity of sacraments conferred by priests who had recanted their Christianity during the persecutions of Diocletian, but then had returned to the church when it became safe. The ODCC states that "the Donatists were rigorists, holding that the Church of the saints must remain 'holy', and that sacraments conferred by traditores were invalid. That schism carried on from 311 until around the 8th Century. That's like 400 YEARS.

Are we seeing the beginnings of the Robinson Controversy, in which one faction separates itself from the main body in order to keep themselves rigorously "holy"? I'm inclined to think so. Donatism took hold in North Africa and the Catholic Church and Donatist Church were constantly at odds there. The only thing that ended the controversy was the rise of Islam. Not to go on and on with the Early Church History lesson, but it appears that this thing isn't going to be solved anytime soon.

2. How ugly will this get? We've seen what happens when a parish tries to leave ECUSA; what will happen when these 13 dioceses (Pittsburgh, Albany, San Joaquin, South Carolina, Florida, Central Florida, SW Florida, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Quincy, Springfield, W Kansas, and Rio Grande) attempt to leave? Is everyone of one mind about this in those dioceses? If so, will ECUSA be left with empty buildings? Will there be a few who stay behind? So, with apologies to John Fogerty and CCR, "I see the bad moon arising."

3. The 13 dioceses that will be/are separating from ECUSA state that they are not separating. They are following the one, true faith, and that it is ECUSA that has chosen to remove themselves from not only the Anglican Communion, but from traditional Christianity as well. Doesn't this sound a whole lot like Luther in that he never really "left" the Church, he just came to the conclusion that the Church was off its collective rocker. Then again, isn't that what every reformist/schismatic does: It's not me, it's you.

4. Why me? Why now? I've been thinking about this ever since General Convention. What do I have to offer in this time of turmoil? It was hard enough getting used to the idea of being a priest when things were running relatively smoothly. What does God see in me that resulted in a call to the priesthood? Especially when he knew that things were going to go awry? (Calvin anyone?). As always, the person called is usually the last to know, so I wouldn't expect this to be any different. It would seem that I need to talk with a bunch of people to get this figured out.

Finally, it also seems to me that conversation is lacking. This appears to be a knee-jerk reaction by a few far right-wing people to an action that they don't like. I don't think that this group should pickup their vestments and go home in a huff. Nor do I think that those on the other side of the debate should be uttering "Good riddance!" And if the ear would say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." This whole scenario has the feel of all the eyes who see things the same way getting together to be right.

It's a brave new world. Pray for us.



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