Monday, May 12, 2008

Anger and what do we do now

The Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church are in a mess - a big mess. There are several forces at work that contribute to the mess, but I think that one of the biggest is the issue of trust. The progressives and traditionalists simply don't trust each other. We both accuse the each other of being more interested in property and power and "winning" than in the people and mission of spreading the Good News of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. We are too ready to see the wrong that the other side does to us and not ready enough to see how "we" (whether that is the progressive we or traditionalist we) contribute to it. Over at Fr. Jakes, one commenter is activly gathering and posting information on the congregations that have asked for episcopal oversight from +Greg Venables or one of the bishops in the Southern Cone and is soliciting people to write to the governments of countries in Southern Cone to see if any finance laws are being violated by these parishes contributing money to SC. That is the level of vitriol and anger that is exists today. This anger exists on all sides of the problem.

Anger is one of the seven deadly sins and will form a shield against God's grace and love. So, what can we do to reduce the anger and to restore trust?

First, I think that a viable plan that allows a parish to seek alternative episcopal oversight from a bishop that it chooses. There should be some guidelines, such as the parish requesting a new bishop should have to lay out its case for why the Ordinary (or the Coadjudor / Suffragan / Assistant / Assisting bishop(s)) is not appropriate for the congregation. This should include specific actions and stated beliefs that are outside of mainstream Anglicanism. Examples could include the authorization of blessing same sex unions or a denial of any of the creeds (as a "reasonable man" would interpret them). There should be a list of appropriate active and retired bishops who are available and and that parishes should be allowed to choose from. The Ordinary should not have veto power over the parish's choice - unless he can show why the reasoning of the parish is faulty or that he does not hold, teach, or believe what the parish claims he does. Where there is conflict, an arbitration team composed of one person appointed by the parish, one by the Bishop, and one mutually agreed to will decide the question. No lawsuits will occur.

Second, we need to stop the lawsuits and stop them now. Bringing a lawsuit in court is no way to engage in reconciliation. Instead, we should provide for binding arbitration to work out a settlement that honors the contributions of the national church office, the diocese, and the parish. If the diocese holds title to the property, then the people can leave and the diocese have an empty building, but the parish should not be able to take its property without some consideration. Likewise, if the parish holds the title to the property, then it can leave, but some compensation should be given to the diocese and national church. Endowments and trust funds belonging to a parish should be split based on a validated vote of the congregation. For example, assume a parish has a 1 million dollar trust fund and that parish decides to leave TECUSA on a 70/30 split. In that case the "leavers" get 700,000 and the stayers get 300,000. If there is an impasse between the diocese and the parish, an arbitration team should be called in to bring settlement. Note that if we impliment a viable AEO plan, this should become significantly less necessary.

Third, we need to find a way to let clergy transfer to another Anglican province without deposing them for "abandonment of communion." If a bishop, priest, or deacon cannot stay within TECUSA, then he or she should be allowed to transfer to another province - even if that province has congregations in the geographic boundries of TECUSA. This leaves the door open for future reconciliation such that the clergy person can return to TECUSA at a future date.

Finally, we need to stop talking past each other and assuming that the other side is more interested in winning that following and promoting the Gospel. This means taking what our opponents say at face value. When they ask a honest question, give an honest answer. At all times, avoid name calling or assuming motives that are not stated.

Phil Snyder


Anonymous said...

You lost me at "but some compensation should be given to the diocese and national church".

No, NOT the national church. This only funds the lawsuits and would be way too big of a stumbling block for most seeking alternate episcopal or primatial oversight. The national church has never contributed one dime to my parish; why should they be compensated?


plsdeacon said...


Let me give you an example that might help you. 12 years ago, our parish built a new church building. We borrowed money from the Crump Fund to partially finance it. The money was loaned at 2% or lower interest. Now, that is a benefit that our parish received from being part of TECUSA. We saved several thousands (if not 10s of thousands) dollars in interest rates. The national church is not all heresy and apostacy and power. It does do some good and many of the people who gave money to start or build an Episcopal Church both had the expectation that the congregation would remain an ECUSA congregation and that ECUSA would continue to "propogate the historic faith and order."

I do not seek perfection or any thing close to it because I know that my own vision of perfection is clouded by my sin. I am seeking a way forward that avoids lawsuits and stops the transfer of wealth from TECUSA and its parishes and dioceses to trial lawyers. Even if 815 gets money out of it, I think we are all better off. The worst negotiated will probably be better, in the long run, than the best litigated one.

If I could wave a magic wand and make everything perfect, I would have those members of TECUSA who have deviated from the "historic faith and order" of the Church repent and return. But that is not up to me. It is up to God and to those who have left the historic faith and order.

Phil Snyder

Trey said...

So your sentence in the comments at Father Jakes' has me stumped/concerned: "God came to kill us so we could be raised to Glory with Jesus Christ." I've never heard that phrase before. And I don't like it. It sounds like the old testament God, not Jesus. Who loves us.

We will all die. Or be killed. And through Jesus's and God's love, we will be raised to Glory. I try to live my life, every day, in order to deserve that love, that glory. But I am a sinner, and there are times when I fail. But God loves me anyways, and forgives. That's what TECUSA has taught me, and what I believe.

If you can find some specific scripture about how Jesus addresses homosexuality and same sex LOVE, then please let me know.

Peace Be With You.

plsdeacon said...

Hi Trey,

First, when I say that God came to kill us, I am quoting Paul and Jesus. Jesus told us to take up our cross and follow him. Now I hope you remember that the cross was an instrument of death. Jesus said to follow him in his death.

Paul says that those who are baptized into Jesus Christ are baptized into his death. Likewise Paul says that we "...have died and our life is hid with Christ in God." (Col 3:3)

Finally, in concluding collect for the prayers of the candidates, the celebrant says: "Grant, O Lord, that all who are baptized into the death of Jesus Christ...."

This death is not the death caused by a vengful God, but by one who wants to raise us to new life. I liken it to the catepillar dying in the crysalis and emerging as a butterfly. The old died and changed and was raised to new life. Likewise we will all die and change and be raised into new life.

As for Jesus comments regarding homosexual sex, please read Matt 15:19 "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander." The word "fornication" is, in Greek, porneia. It means any sexual expression outside of marriage. Now, Jesus did reinterpret the law concerning marriage and adultery. He made it much more strict than anything Moses said. Remember that part of looking with lust at another woman being the same as adultery. Well, that came from Jesus. If Jesus had intended to change the law regarding homosexual sex so that two men who truly loved each other could engage in it, then I believe that Jesus would have done so. If the Holy Spirit had intended it to be the case that mutually monogamous homosexual relationship were good and blessed, I don't believe that he would have waited 1900 years or so to make it known.

Having said that, I do not consider homosexual sex to be the worst offense nor do I think we should kick men or women engaged in SSU's out of the church. I believe that what they are doing is sinful, but I am full of sin myself. But I do not believe that the Church can bless these relationships because I see no evidence that God blesses them. For those who are engaged in SSU's,s I am glad that they have found some measure of peace and love and joy in their lives. I have several friends at work who are homosexual and engaged in long term relationships. I respect them and their relationships. But I cannot bless those relationships and I cannot ask the church to do so.

That may seem like so much sophistry to you and if so, I am sorry. Please feel free to comment here as often as you like.

Phil Snyder

Anonymous said...

Trust is most definitely not there. I cannot imagine someone making the statement, "Nobody signed anything" and stating that her affirmation of DeS was only as a messenger. ++Drexel Gomez called her out on her lie to the other primates. But it is similar to Griswold publicly agreeing not to consecrate homosexuals and then doing it shortly thereafter. Lying to a coworker, lying to a spouse,..., people do that all the time but lying to the primates in such public fashion??? I truly cannot fathom someone doing that.

When the national church sues and takes away your parish, it is hard not to be angry. But you are absolutely correct that this is what we are called to do (Matthew 5:43-44). (That the presiding bishop is an enemy is pretty sad.) I have seen videos of many of the orthodox leaders and they simply do not condone or encourage anger.

The rest of your essay is not gonna happen, not gonna happen, not gonna happen. Lawsuits won't be stopped. They will accelerate. There will not be viable alternative oversight that cedes any meaningful power. Clergy are being deposed retroactively years after they have left.

The Episcopal organization will not change its ways. GC09 will make these modes of action mandatory. It is time to acknowledge that and move on. Choose this day...


TLF+ said...

Deacon Phil - thanks for your gracious message and practical suggestions.

And your answer of the kind of "killing" that comes with discipleship was wonderfully clear and helpful - in no small part because you let Scripture and the BCP speak for themselves.