Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Desperate Churchwives

Okay, besides reading it in this morning's paper, I have now seen three Facebook links in reference to the statement by the Roman Catholic Church about their now having a regularized process for accepting Anglicans who wish to transfer their membership. First, a few facts:

1) No one leaving us and going to Rome is converting. Both groups claim to be Christians, so any transfers are just that, not conversions to another religion. Want proof? They will not be re-baptized. You see, the funny thing is, Romans, like Anglicans, believe that God baptizes people, and we both assume he does not occasionally just screw it up. Nor does he have two different bodies to be baptized into. There are a few fundys out there who need to get a coherent theology on this one.

2) Rome has been accepting married male Anglican clergy since shortly after we began ordaining women. Funny thing is that they do re-ordain. That alone would be enough of an insult to my orders that I would have to decline.

3) Laypeople wanting to join the Roman Church have been able to approach a parish and ask to do so for centuries. Basically ever since there was an Anglican Church, we could join. The Roman Catholic Church has never been a closed system, despite the peculiar ways people write about this so-called new event.

4) What is new is that these folks will be able to retain some pieces of liturgical life from Anglicanism. I have not seen exactly what the guidelines are, but this seems an odd capitulation to me. Just how many exceptions is Rome going to offer to Anglicans to (apparently) entice us? Me, I want a better paycheck before we can even begin the negotiations.

5) Most people who leave the Anglican communion would be hard pressed to join a denomination that demands obedience to many more doctrinal statements than Anglicanism ever gave them. After all, they are leaving us because they feel they are being forced to accept things they don't like. We'll see how much they are ready to practice the rhythm method of birth control.

6) If a congregation votes to leave the Episcopal Church and join Rome, they will have to do it without their property, which belongs to the diocese. With the current exception of Virginia (stay tuned) every time the taking of property has been sought in courts, eventually the courts have said the property belongs to us. So do not look for that beautiful Gothic Episcopal Church downtown to be flying a Roman flag too quickly, unless we choose to sell it to them.

7. All of the dioceses (4 at last count) that have voted to leave the Episcopal Church have chosen to go join other parts of the Anglican Communion. On a large scale, people are not interested in leaving Anglicanism, just a couple of things they disagree with in the American Church (which isn't entirely American--even in the broad sense--but we will leave that for another day).

8. The Episcopal Church did not actually say anything different last summer at its General Convention. We said we would follow our previously written rules about ordinations and we said we would study same-sex marriages, unions, etc. Oh, and we would allow for generous pastoral latitude around the marriage issue (including allowing more conservative bishops to do parish visitations if wanted). I have read several times how we are developing liturgies for same sex marriages; it simply is not true. If you want to complain, go read what the Lutherans did!

9. And by the way, the doors swing in both directions. Lots of folk coming our way because of our stances on women and gays, on divorce, and because we took steps two decades ago to stem the tide of child abuse and sexual predators.

So what did Rome actually do? They wrote a policy manual, apparently. Before, Anglicans who wanted to transfer were treated individually, so what one was required to do in Richmond could be completely different from what they had to do in Baltimore. Now, the bureaucracy has taken over. One small step for a (Ro)man, one giant leap for paperwork.

Do we like it? no, of course not, if for no other reason than the glee with which it sometimes seems a few Roman Catholic officials are doing these things. But will I lose much sleep over it? Not a chance. The reality is that we are both Christian denominations who happen to disagree on a few things, perhaps most importantly on how one offers dissent from official doctrine. And every person who leaves us for Rome makes it easier for us to go forward with the Gospel as we have received it.

But God bless those who stick around. The worst thing that could happen to us would be if we had no dissent. That is the easiest way to get off track. Differing understandings of God's Word demand that everyone become sharper theologically because we have to justify our stances. If we should ever lose that, it will be a sad day.

For Anglicans, worship is theology and vice versa. As long as we can come to the table together, we can co-exist. It is sad that is not to be for some right now, but one day, we will bring the kingdom fully into being through the grace of God, and all this foolishness will be over. And we will really come to understand that God loves all of us.


Michael said...

Kevin... stinking brilliant post!! Well reasoned and said! And I'm a methodist! hahaha.

Grace to you...


Kevin M said...

Thanks RevMike! (Although now I see a few typos to correct!)